September 20, 2012
Using a smartphone while driving is dangerous, not to mention illegal in many places. However, as mobile devices become more popular and car companies work to integrate them into auto design and function, improving application design so that they are safe to use while in a vehicle becomes paramount.
According to GigaOM, the average American spends two hours a day, about 15 hours per week, in the car. However, some people spend the other 22 hours in a day, or at least those they don't spend sleeping, on their smartphones, tablets or desktop computers. And many of these individuals don't want to exclude that time spent in their vehicle from their smartphone "addiction." From playing music to utilizing GPS navigation, smartphones offer a number of apps and utilities designed for the car, but using them isn't always safe.
For application developers, this means making it safer for apps to be used in the car.
While some think that simply banning the use of smartphones while operating a vehicle is the answer, this is generally ineffective, as anyone driving down the road can see by the number of individuals still talking, or even texting, while driving. According to the news source, another option exists - changing the GUI design of apps so they don't distract the driver.
This idea may require a change to the way application design is approached. Voice command apps, like Siri on the iPhone, offer another level of functionality, but not all phones come with this feature, and not all users want to use it, which means apps need to take a different approach. The idea is to make control of apps used in a car similar to the controls that already exist in vehicles.
According to the report, changing controls in music apps, such as volume and play buttons, to be similar to the volume knobs and control buttons on a car dashboard could help minimize distraction. Rather than having users focus on their device to swipe or otherwise control it, they could simply adjust a knob, or a digital representation of one.
While these concerns may become a thing of the past as voice control and other forms of device interaction develop, these functions are not yet widespread, and until they are apps need to be safe to use in any circumstance.