New app to help avoid distracted driving

With the lights out at a Humber College intersection, two vehicles come close to getting into a fender-bender (Alex Drobin) With the lights out at a Humber College intersection, two vehicles come close to getting into a fender-bender (Alex Drobin)
Alex Drobin
Biz/Tech Reporter

It’s an app that can save a motorist $2,000, and maybe even their life.

 

Appcolony, a Calgary-based tech company, created an app called OneTap, which deters people from using their mobile devices while driving. The app detects when the user is on the road and automatically responds to text messages and phone calls, allowing the driver to concentrate on the road in a stress-free environment. When the user arrives at their destination, the app summarizes any missed calls and text messages the driver received during their trip.

 

“In one of our idea sessions, it was brought up whether we could do anything about distracted driving,” said Ted Hellard, founder of Appcolony. “We discovered that the problem wasn’t actually the phone in the car. “The issue is that Canadians and North Americans are addicted to smartphones,” he said.

 

This addiction has generated a medical condition called nomophobia, the fear of being phoneless. OneTap allows users to have their mobile devices in their presence, while minimizing the possibility of a distracted driving incident.

 

Keith Seim, co-founder of Firestitch, a Toronto-based app development company, said that an app of this nature can run anywhere from $90,000 to $200,000 to develop.

 

The $200,000 investment “is a pretty small price to pay for the potential safety of countless drivers on the road,” said Krunal Patel, an HTM student at Humber College.

“I would definitely use it.” he said.

 

Endangering someone through distracted driving can lead to a careless driving charge, according to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Convicted offenders automatically receive six demerit points, fines of up to $2,000, and a possible jail term of six months and up to a two-year license suspension.

 

The OneTap application is getting a lot of recognition, as distracted driving is becoming an increasingly evident issue, and is cited as a causal factor in 30 to 50 per cent of traffic collisions in Ontario, according to the OPP.

 

Hellard said that because of the demand, the Google app store has placed OneTap as the store’s top new transportation application.

 

“It’s dangerous to be on your phone when you’re driving. If there is an option for people to have an app like this, they will use it,” said Eric Tai, an Interactive Media student at Humber College.

 

Hellard said that not even two weeks into their launch, the OneTap app is pushing more than 450,000 distracted-free kilometres.

 

“We know with the number of kilometres that have been driven distracted free, somewhere in there a life has been saved. We need university students to make this go viral,” said Hellard.

 

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