By: Jake Levy/SCRN
Clemson researchers have created software that allows hands-free texting while driving. VoiceTEXT is a program that takes spoken words through a bluetooth headset and turns them into a text message.
Professor and chairman of Clemson’s department working on the project, Dr. Juan Gilbert, says the message is sent as a voice message on the recipients phone, but it can also be sent as a traditional text message. The software will also send an email to the recipient with a link to the audio file as well as a phone number to call to hear the message.
Gilbert says the program also allows for incoming text messages to be read aloud in the car.
The software is still in its trial stage, but so far, he says those who have tried voiceTEXT have liked it. “From our initial pilot study reviews people are really excited about it and they use it,” Gilbert says. “We’re going to have studies starting in March with a driving simulator on campus at Clemson University to compare this against traditional texting and other things while your in the car.”
With the state Senate and House both entertaining bills that would ban texting while driving in South Carolina, this software may get some attention. Gilbert says that 19 other states have laws prohibiting texting while driving, but his research has shown that in many places with bans on texting there no difference in the number of accidents.
“Catching someone texting while their driving is a very challenging task, and people wont stop doing it,” says Gilbert, “So the approach that we’ve taken is that if we can’t get them to stop, then give them a safer alternative and maybe they’ll use it.”
Gilbert says they have a patent on the technology and hopes to sell the license to a well known company so it can have a national impact. He does not know yet whether this program will have a cost, he says it will have to wait until the licensing stage to see who takes over the program and what they will do with it.
Gilbert hopes one day voiceTEXT usage will be mandated the same way seatbelts are: “If things work out the way that I would like to see them, this could actually become something like a seatbelt law, maybe this will become a law as well, that you have to use this method to do texting.”
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 25 percent of all police-reported crashes involve driver distractions. Cell phone usage is considered a distraction. VoiceTEXT allows drivers to communicate while driving and keep their eyes on the road.