iPhone Multitasking Could Make Driving Safer
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The ability to run background apps in Apple's upcoming iPhone software update could make driving safer by allowing specialized distraction-preventing services to run on the popular device.

These products have taken off in the last few years as the dangers of distracted driving – blabbing or texting away on a cell phone – have become all-too-clear through studies and personal experience.

Now Illume Software, the makers iZUP ("eyes-up") – an application that blocks texting, calling and Web browsing on mobile devices while driving – have announced that they will have a version of their product ready to work on the iPhone's new 4.0 operating system when it comes out this summer.  

The expansion of the iPhone's operating system to handle "multitasking" brings the capabilities of Apple's smartphone in line with those of other manufacturers. Previously, iZUP could only work on BlackBerrys, and phones with Google's Android or Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating systems, which are capable of running background apps.

Dan Ross, chief executive officer of Illume Software, said that "the iPhone allowing multitasking and therefore our solution with distracted driving is a huge thing."

Driving while under the influence of cell phones

Distracted driving is on the rise as cell phones have become essentially ubiquitous and drivers look to cram ever more socializing and productivity into their travels. According to a recent National Safety Council report, "more than one in four motor vehicle crashes involve cell phone use at the time of the crash" and that 11 percent of drivers at any moment are fiddling with their cell phones. Nearly two dozen states have therefore already banned hand-held talking or texting while driving.

But even hands-free talking options, such as with Bluetooth or a headset, can still cause "inattention blindness" in drivers and has been directly implicated in severe accidents.  

At first blush, then, it would appear that the option for iPhone-owning drivers to multitask might cause even more distractions by letting additional applications from Scrabble games to Facebook status updates chime in.

Of course, just turning a cell phone off when hitting the road would solve this issue, but many people simply cannot resist the urge and would rather have a service that disables them from using the tempting device.

This is where iZUP, which just came on the market in December 2009, and similar products from Aegis Mobility, obdEdge LLC and ZoomSafer step in: to protect drivers, especially rookie, text message-addicted teenagers, from themselves.

How iZUP works

For phones registered to an iZUP account, the application starts automatically when it detects movement over five miles per hour as a car goes from idling into full-on driving. The application tells how fast a particular mobile device is moving based on an emitted Global Positioning System (GPS) signal tracked by satellites and ground monitoring stations.

Once activated, iZUP blocks outgoing text messages and phone calls and only allows calls from three authorized numbers, such as an employer or a parent. Dialing 911 is unaffected, however, and newer iZUP features alert account holders (in many cases, parents) exactly where such an emergency call was dialed from.

Non-cleared incoming calls to an iZUP phone get routed to voice mail and texts queue up until the car and its occupant are no longer barreling along the highway.  

iZUP also shuts down Web browsing and all but one other "whitelisted" application from functioning (in case a navigation application is necessary for driving directions, say).

A safer, more pennywise future?

With distracted driving on the public's radar these days, Illume Software and other makes of anti-distracted driving products have been working with automobile insurance companies to incentivize the use of these claim-reducing services.

Ross said that auto insurance companies are rolling out significant premium discounts of anywhere from three to five percent for customers who opt for iZUP and other products, meaning that adopters will ultimately save money.  

The pricing for the iZUP application when it becomes available for the iPhone's new 4.0 operating system is still being worked out, Ross said.  

Currently, a monthly subscription for non-iPhone customers goes for $4.95, or there is an annual plan of $49.95. A family plan account can place the app on three to five phones for $9.95 per month or $79.95 for a year.

Ross said that services like iZUP have immense room to grow as people and governments try to put the brakes on distracted driving.

"I think ultimately you will see this [sort of service] embedded in handsets and by carriers," Ross told TechNewsDaily.

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