Distracted driving, defined most often today as using one’s smartphone while driving, has become one of the most pressing public safety concerns today. Many states have begun passing laws to combat distracted driving, while some insurance companies are combing through their policyholders’ phones’ accelerometer data to raise premiums on customers who regularly drive while under the influence of electronics. Now, one of the biggest names in smartphone messaging has begun adding a new host of functionality in order to help users drive safely – while still using their phones, though. WhatsApp has announced they will be adding CarPlay compatibility to their app, adding hands-free messaging capabilities. What could go wrong?
Well, a lot. Despite what app developers and many drivers think, hands-free doesn’t necessarily mean safe. The National Health and Safety Council says that activity in the area of the brain which processes moving images (like those seen through your windshield) decreases by 33% when we engage in conversation. With that in mind, WhatsApp has now enabled users whose vehicles support CarPlay to access a few key features while driving using only their voices or a single tap. Users will be able to play incoming messages and dictate responses using the CarPlay UI. Many features like scrolling through the list of conversations will be left out – you know, for safety and stuff. Safety first!
WhatsApp is one of the first third-party messaging apps to add hands-free support to CarPlay. While this move is being hailed as a step in the right direction to help curb distracted driving, it seems like features like this only encourage WhatsApp users to keep using the app while driving. Maybe I’m just old fashioned and prefer by car to not wind up wrapped around other cars and guardrails, but shouldn’t we be adding features which keep users from operating their phones while they’re driving? Or has that become a moot point by now?