Voice Texting

As a parent of two young adult drivers and a third soon to hit the road, nothing scares me more than texting while driving. Drinking and driving scares me too, but since that danger has been around since long before I started driving I've somehow internalized that risk a bit better.

Being an engineer at heart and by training, I've been looking for a solution to the problem. I know that the buzz of the phone and the unread/unresponded message is like a drug to many and that the best solution would be a "hands free" way to read and respond. And the bluetooth/hands free voice solution works so well on most cars and most phones now, so why can't we do the same with texting?

I've been trying out an app on my Android called Blue Control ($2 in the android store) that a friend suggested to me. I can't seem to make it work with my car's bluetooth service, but it is very possible that the problem is operator error.

So I went looking for other options. I found an app available on iPhone, Android, and Blackberry called Text'nDrive. The iPhone version only supports email right now but the Android and Blackberry version supports SMS and email. I went ahead and purchased the Pro version for $21 even though there is a free version on Android as well. Apparently the free version only reads your texts while the Pro version lets you reply as well.

I got Text'nDrive to work but not on my car's bluetooth service (even though that was the selected audio input/output device in the app). It does indeed read your incoming texts to you and tells you who they are from and then you can reply via voice. I couldn't get the reply by voice thing working right but again, it may be operator error. If I could get Text'nDrive to work with my car's bluetooth audio, then I'd work harder to figure out how to get it to do the reply thing correctly.

I'm all ears if anyone out there has found an app that does this well. "This" to me means connects seamlessly to any car's bluetooth audio service and reads your incoming texts and lets you reply with voice. That is a killer app in my opinion and it will have the added benefit of making the roads safer for us and our kids.


Comments (Archived):

  1. JJ Donovan

    Applications that get all of us to keep our focus on the road are welcome icons to the Smart Phone world. Statistics prove and our transportation secretary concurs that any distraction while driving is dangerous. For those that believe that they are now safe because they have both hands on the wheel are lulled into a false sense of security.If you need immediate safety and do not want to wait to find the killer app, Ford Motor company has an application that reads text messages on the display with their Sync product.JJD – Eyes on the road hands upon the wheel

  2. Sean Dague

    If safety is the primary concern, hands free doesn’t help. The distraction has a huge mental component.”Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)”http://www.distraction.gov/… with lots of good information.

    1. fredwilson

      i am sure that is true but i am equally sure that texting while driving is more distracting than talking hands free

      1. Larry

        Talking while driving IS MUCH safer than texting while driving. How absurd to think that while my hands are on the wheel, my eyes are on the road versus my hands are holding my phone and I am looking down to type on my phone is equally as dangerous!!! Another government study gone bad. We have held, as a company, several test with people of all ages. Holding a phone and typing is BAR FAR a greater distraction than speaking a command all hands free!! GetVext.com

      2. Mark Langner

        Actually, this depends on how you define “distraction”.  Using a smartphone to text while driving is more dangerous than talking on a cellphone because you take your eyes off the road for surprisingly long periods of time – more than a second on average – which is far in excess (multiples) of what vehicle manufacturers deem acceptable based on decades of vehicle telematics study and design. However, talking on the phone is more “distracting” than texting from the standpoint of diverting necessary concentration brain functions for vehicle operation because having a conversation with a person requires more focus than interacting with a static text message.  This is tied to the same phenomena that makes talking to someone on the phone more dangerous than talking to a passenger in the car.  The person in the car is aware of the same environment as the driver and therefore adjusts the conversation naturally in response to potential road dangers (releasing the driver to concentrate on driving).Lastly, it is my understanding from speaking with auto industry telematics experts on this topic that a.) voice recognition technologies are currently unable to effectively deal with the challenge of ambient noise found in cars to make texting reliably accurate and safe.  b.) even if the voice rec worked, smart phone application control design are not built to standards necessary to maintain safe vehicle operation. and c.) smartphone hardware has physical limitations that are difficult to overcome to make them safe devices to integrate into a telematics solution.Ironically, the view of the people that I spoke with was that texting can be safer than calling on the phone if a proper system could be designed to handle the messages within the known limitations of driver/vehicle control and telematics safety standards.



      4. Greg C.

        Does it matter if talking hands free is safer than texting if they are both above the threshold of safe distractions for driving?

  3. Seth Godin

    This is what we really need, Fred:http://sethgodin.typepad.co…Six years later, alas, and it’s still not ready for my teenagers or yours.

    1. William Mougayar

      These are great suggestions Seth! Since we’re on the topic of safety, I would add the following law: Fine or jail the parent of any kid who gets into an accident because of drunk or text driving. That’s an incentive.

      1. Guest

        I don’t see why the parents should be punished at least not as harsh as you suggest (jail). The kid that is driving the car is old enough to drive the car and should also be old enough to take responsibility for his or her actions. I am not saying that the parents should not be proper role models and teach their kids the right behaviors when it comes to driving a car responsibly.  

        1. ChuckEats

          wow Guest, 100% agree with you.  if you can drive, you can make proper decisions & face the consequences of those decisions – parents should not be held liable at all.   as for the car feature set, as much as i respect the people in this mini-thread, i’m glad you’re not my parents.  full-time GPS?  that’s a great way to immediately alienate already-alienated teens.

        2. William Mougayar

          I don’t agree that the parents’ responsibility is totally hands-off and dissociated from theirs kids actions. As long as the “kids” are living at home and the parents have an influence on them, responsible parents can prevent these bad things from happening by being strict about it.Accidents that kill people are much more serious than a parent spending some prison time for being indirectly responsible. (am talking only about DUI & text-driving, 2 perfectly controllable factors).

          1. Kevin Morton

            By this logic, why not extend imprisonment punishment to parents when their kids shoplift, do drugs, or get in fights at school? Sounds like a great way to 1) increase our already overflowing prisons with people who personally *didn’t* commit any crime, and 2) increase abuse rates in hard-off families when Johnny’s alcoholic and sadistic father gets out after serving his prison term for Johnny’s error.You are accountable for your own actions. Not your mother.

          2. William Mougayar

            If you look at the statistics for car related fatalities involving kids age 17-22, and caused by intoxication or texting, you’d be surprised. All I’m saying is that- if the kids are still living with the parents, this law would make parents more accountable, and strictly if there are serious injuries/fatalities & involving drugs/alcohol/texting. These are preventable conditions, and should not be tolerated by responsible parents.

    2. fredwilson

      i gather you worry about this stuff too seth. i love the idea of a teen car and i’m 100% with you on the feature set

      1. Zach Olsen

        Has no one made an app that disables sending and receiving texts when the phone is traveling over a certain mph? Parents could force their kids to not text while driving by installing this app on their phone.

    3. Josh Rehman

      The real reason we don’t have this kind of car is that kids get their parent’s hand-me-downs, and parents would never want to drive such a thing.That said, I think it’s a good idea. Perhaps communities could learn to share a pool of such vehicles. Or even better in places like SoCal, get some decent public transportation obviating the problem entirely.



  4. Carl J. Mistlebauer

    If we want to make our roads safer then lets just teach ourselves that sometimes we have to just turn our little gadgets and concentrate on the task at hand.I am not real sure, but I find it hard to believe that we are so critical to others that we must maintain 24/7 immediate contact with others.  If you seriously think about it our need to be plugged into the globalized world is a neurosis.Nothing is more enjoyable than being “out of pocket” for an hour or two.  Voice mail, email, and text messages all have storage and I believe that one should use their storage capacity.  The whole purpose of innovation is to improve life and I cannot understand how multi tasking between driving, eating, a meeting, or whatever and constantly reviewing ones voice mail, text messages, and or emails is all that much of an improvement.Be thankful you do not travel with me….I made a trip the other day with others and I made them all turn off their cellphones and give them to me and I put them away for the whole length of the trip, the meeting, and the return trip.Should have seen what gadget withdrawals look like!  🙂

    1. Aaron Klein

      To each his own. There’s nothing wrong with you having the freedom to drive in this fashion. I insist on having the freedom to tackle a long call list – safely, with a Bluetooth headset – and get productive work done on three hour driving trips.Full voice control would make this even safer.

      1. Carl J. Mistlebauer

        Sometimes we confuse “multi tasking” with “productivity.” It is almost impossible today to get everyone involved “focused”  Just this last week I was involved in three meetings and between texting and jumping up to take calls everything takes much longer than it should and it seems that rather than focusing on the task at hand everyone is unfocused and then you end up with everyone having to “get back” with you…If you actually think about it, the discussions we have while driving are more “chats” than they are actually productive communications; we are more apt to be filling up our time than actually maximizing our time.

        1. Aaron Klein

          Let me put it this way: using a three hour drive to touch base with key partners, customers or investors is the only way those calls are going to happen at all (or something else is going to get cut later).So it turns an absolute waste of time into semi-productive time, at the very least.

          1. guest

            I would suggest that if the “only way” a call with “key” “partners, customers and investors” will happen is during a three hour drive in an automobile than the aforementioned are not very “key.” Driving while engaged in conversation, whether on a phone, using a douchetooth, or even simply being deeply engaged in a conversation with somebody else in the car, is a distraction to your duty of driving safely. If you cause damage while behaving as you describe, raising your “freedom to tackle a long call list” will not be a valid defense.

          2. Aaron Klein

            The practice of misquoting people when writing an unintelligent replyappears to be heavily correlated with “anonymous guest” status.

          3. guest

            I could use my real name, but why does it matter? We don’t know each other.  And, more importantly, regardless of my anonymity, my point stands, since its merely a statement of widely accepted law: it you get into a reasonably foreseeable wreck due to inattentive driving you will be found liable, notwithstanding your “freedom” to “tackle calls,” “touch base” with “key” people, or any other sweet metaphors with which you may deftly deploy. 

          4. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          5. Aaron Klein

            We have laws against reckless driving. If you can’t drive safely while talking on a Bluetooth headset, then you shouldn’t do that.My state legislature can’t even pass a budget on time. Before they start attacking those of us who can safely talk handsfree on the telephone, they need to ban eating, applying makeup, daydreaming, thinking and scratching one’s back while driving.

      2. Larry

        Mr. Klein- that’s why we, as telecommunications entrepreneurs, developed and are constantly adding to the features of http://www.GetVext.com We have developed a NON-app; meaning you speed dial into our telecommunications platform from any cell carrier, any phone, even a land line, and speak what you want to do… it is all voice recognition software that allows you to do all sorts of things and maintain safety and productivity!!We agree with your premise and feel the market is wide open!! Have a blessed day!!

  5. headlemur

    Fred, I gotta disagree with you on this. Distracted Driving is just dangerous, Full Stop!Your assumption that texting will happen and you can ‘tech’ a solution is just crazy. Your analogy to drinking and driving should have slapped you up side the head while you were posting.Your ‘fix’ is analogous to fixing alcoholism by switching from bourbon to beer  in hopes of managing the problem.   It doesn’t. You want to keep your kids safe? Take the keys or the phone.You want to

  6. RichardF

    I’d be amazed if the voice recognition is good enough for even half way decent voice to text.  Nobody has cracked that one yet it’d be nirvana.

    1. Aaron Klein

      It definitely would be pretty basic transcription but given the extensive use of proper English in texting today, it wud prob b bett 4 u to reed lol.

      1. RichardF

        Tru dat!

      2. Dave W Baldwin

        @RichardForster:disqus @fredwilson:disqus @kenberger:disqus Had to include this from my CEO/CTO:”Learned some new English from my fellow McDonald’s patrons: “Dag, that dawg got a donkey!” … indeed she did…It is a matter of AI learning, then we’ll be mad hoping it unlearns…

    2. fredwilson

      i use voice to text on my android all the time. it is way better than my typing

      1. RichardF

        Is that a native Android app and does it require voice training? I wasn’t aware that the main issues had been resolved (which is why Spinvox and Simulscribe were using humans) other than for simple tasks, particularly against noise.

      2. kenberger

        and how often (for today) is the output sufficient enough to your intent that it can be sent immediately? for me, i need to correct something critical before sending at least half the time. Yes, i think you imply that your use case is about communications only with people you’re close with, who will be forgiving and generally “know what you meant”.So in a car situation, i’d need the app to either a) read it back to me first and ask for correction (which is poor UI), and/or b) have the app attach the sound file, a la Simulscribe (won’t work over SMS).btw: I find Nuance FlexT9 Text Input for Android is slightly better than the Google built-in stuff, although I have faith the latter will get a lot better in time (especially the personal adaptive tech part).

  7. LIAD

    Not sure there should be a solution to this problem – better to treat the addiction.It’s like working on a cure for STD’s just so teens can have more casual sex.

    1. ShanaC

      All drivers are distracted (technically listening/fiddling with the radio is a distraction, especially in some of these super quiet cars) – this is about harm reduction!

      1. LIAD

        why shoot for half measures? go for harm elimination not just reduction.educate that there is no safe way to text and drive.We don’t have to pander to everything people want to do.

        1. Tony Schneider

          But as long as texting and driving are around, people will do them at the same time regardless of the realized dangers. So in the meantime, why not reduce the risk? You really have a dream of eliminating it completely? And with this new tech-savvy generation? Please.

          1. LIAD

            There’s an obesity epidemic in the developed world.Let’s not spend all our efforts working on a magic pill or operation. Let’s try and fix the root of the problem.Same with this. The best minds should be working on prevention rather than just reduction.Pie in the sky? Utopian hogwash? Probably – but hey, why not.

          2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          3. PeterisP

            It’s quite possible that this would increase the risk instead – that the decrease in risk of a single “texting” action is outweighed by increase in how often you do it and how many people do it.  If at the moment most people actually do not text while driving, ever, then any tech that causes them to reconsider may easily make traffic less safe.And on the other side – current state of art voice-to-SMS will make funny mistakes every single day, the iPhone autocorrect jokes will be tame in comparison to this.

        2. Kevin Morton

          Sounds a bit like advocating strict abstinence education in sex ed. It’s going to happen anyways (premarital sex, and texting while driving), so why not make it safer?

    2. fredwilson

      what’s wrong with casual sex if the consenting individuals are adequately protected?

      1. ShanaC

        umm, Fred, birth control is really expensive, especially if your insurance doesn’t cover it. Morning after, also more expensive than it should be. the laws really need to change.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Move to Canada and vote for me in future elections and it shall be done! 😛

        2. biz bone(r)

          um, condoms are like fifty cents each.

          1. ShanaC

            and the morning after pill when one breaks is $49.99….

        3. Tereza

          You need to have it prescribed by your dermatologist as a skin condition.  Then you’re covered.

          1. ShanaC

            oddly, I actually may end up needing them for this very reason (apparently I am not too old for hormonal acne)

      2. LIAD

        i was trying to make a larger point.some things are broken for a reason.just because we can fix them, doesn’t mean we should.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Could we use the word improve or enhance, rather than fix? 🙂

      3. Dave W Baldwin

        FWIW-  Just getting back from our annual float trip… I wear my Magnum Condom hat saying I promote safety… it is appreciated.

      4. Tereza

        Yeah actually really interesting piece in NYT this weekend on a study comparing teen sex in Netherlands vs. US.  They called it “not under my roof”.  The net net was that teens in Netherlands who had parents who (begrudgingly) let their kids have their boy/girlfriends sleep over — had like 1/4 the pregnancies and also were generally way more open with their parents about the relationships in their lives and were in more positive ones.  Basically, it maintained a trusting dialog where the parents were part of it and could guide them.Whereas the US subjects were sneaking around behind their parents, hadn’t been taught about safe sex by their parents;  got pregnant 4x as much.  I’ll bet there’s a link to quality of the rel’p — fewer of the destructive ones. Because at core kids, even teens, DO want to please their parents.  But this instinct is fighting against raging hormones.  The Dutch parents simply don’t think the hormones can be suppressed or ignored.Probably the same holds true for receiving a text while on a 2-hour drive. We want to do the right thing, but it’s so hard to hold back the urge.

        1. fredwilson

          Great comment. We are more like dutch parents in our approach

        2. ShanaC

          There was also a great editorial not such a long time ago about the cost of birth control vs abortions (that when the cost goes down, so do the amount of abortions)



  8. Toby Ruckert

    Good idea, we’ll add this as a feature to @unifiedinbox – that way the same system can handle any type of in or outgoing messages, whether sms, email or social media. As soon as the demo is ready I’ll send you an invite.

    1. Aaron Klein

      You’ve got to send all of us AVCers an invite… 😉

      1. Matt A. Myers

        I verbally second that (verbally in writing..)

  9. Kelvin Kang

    If you are on an Android device, the try Vlingo. It sounds like their Car Mode may be what you’re looking for.

    1. fredwilson


      1. TJ Leonard

        Hey Fred, as luck would have it you have some folks from Vlingo who read your blog.  Love that you’re taking this topic to task.  Definitely check out the InCar mode within our free Android app.  If you’re ever interested in a guided tour just let us know.  Here’s a video we put together last fall when the feature came out.  You can probably hear my future teenager making noise from the back (I still have a few years before its time to sweat). http://www.youtube.com/user…

        1. fredwilson

          Thanks. I will give it a spin

          1. J. Scott Hamilton

            Hi Fred,Same thing applies to tweeting too. We created a simple app that lets you call a number say whatever you want and then we tweet it via your account on your behalf.if you can make a phone call, you can send a voice tweet. We attach the voice file in the cloud so you don’t use your data channel on your phone.http://voodootweets.com/

    2. Axel Blickle

      +1 for Vlingo In Car for Android.  I was a beta tester for Vlingo’s Blackberry app, but the Android version is even better.  Still in beta and with room for improvement, but pretty much what you are looking for.

  10. Bob Wesson

    My startup VoiZapp is dedicated to solving this class of problem for you, Fred. But although I’ve spent the past decade of my career incorporating speech recognition into a variety of professional applications, such as air traffic control training, it’s taking a bit longer than I had expected to get speech input working well enough here. Our first iOS app — Friends Aloud — reads your Facebook postings and comments aloud, via Bluetooth if you like. We’ve got other apps in the Aloud series in our pipeline that read aloud your Twitter, email, Google Reader, and other feeds, along with Android variations of all of the above that exploit the speech recognition built into the Android OS, along with a Texts Aloud with speech input as well. We anticipate having speech recognition retrofitted into our iOS 5 apps sometime this fall. 

    1. Matthew Peter Aylett

      From my perspective what really dissappoints is the speech synthesis used to read your texts out at the other end while you drive. The standard onboard IPhone and Android systems are horrible. At least on Android you can buy 3rd party systems. On iPhone your stuck with what they offer as the device is so sandboxed.We want to offer regional voices, celebrity voices, potentially your own voice. I realise Speech Recognition is a tough problem but lets see some more product diversification in the synthesis. That’s our motivation at CereProc anyway (www.cereproc.com).

  11. ShanaC

    I can’t wait to move to driverless cars – solve this problem much faster!

  12. Eric Stroud

    Fred, I think you’re right to want these apps. People love their phones, and most of us don’t have the discipline to ignore them. Ideally, people would focus all their attention on the road. They wouldn’t change the radio, adjust the AC, or talk to their friend sitting beside them. Phones are every bit a distraction as these tasks, they just require more attention to operate (especially touch screen smart phones). Truly useful voice recognition would allow you to keep your eyes on the road & give you the feedback necessary (critical) to navigate all your phone functions (read an article, respond to email/SMS, navigate to an address, etc.), and preferably control your automobile via sound. Nuance and Speak with Me are close to mastering the recognition technology. Now that capability just needs to made useful.  

  13. Dan Epstein

    The idealist in me would try to eliminate texting while driving (public education, make it a ticket-able offense, etc.), rather than making it safer or easier. Being realistic, people aren’t going to stop texting while driving, unless it becomes illegal.As for software on the voice-to-text side, it looks like Apple’s working on something as part of iOS 5. http://9to5mac.com/2011/07/…What I’d like to see is more innovation on the auto-side. If my car could “talk” to the cars in front of, behind, and around it, it could know how fast the other cars were going, how much space is between the cars, even when the car will next be turning or changing lanes.

    1. Aaron Klein

      It’s illegal in California and people still text and drive. It’s dangerous.I have a friend who is a police officer and everyone he pulls over for texting and driving was “just dialing the phone to call someone.”This is the age-old debate about mandating people to do something, or using technology to incentivize doing the right thing.The latter approach ALWAYS works better… 🙂

  14. TedHoward

    I’m pretty sure Windows Phone, once the ‘Mango’ update is out, handles this scenario. I know it does voice texting; I just don’t know if it handles the whole receive-respond scenario.

  15. Jeff T.

    How about just making a phone call?

  16. Joe Yevoli

    All I can think about reading the post and the comments is a quote from a standup comedian (can’t remember the name), but I think it applies here:”If you need both hands to do something.. then your brain should be in on it, too.”

    1. fredwilson

      great line

    2. Matt A. Myers

      😉 lol…

  17. Adrian Skehill

    How about dial2do? Looks like a nice fit for your requirements Fred.

  18. Frank Denbow

    The native Android speech->text service in sms apps works pretty well for me, but for your use case is not enough I presume.

  19. Fernando Gutierrez

    Autocomplete and predictive text still sucks in all platforms… I can’t wait to see the misunderstandings caused by a not really polished voice to text app!More seriously, we have to start thinking about driving while driving, or quit driving. Maybe Google is right and they’ll drive us all before someone solves problems like this one.

  20. AndroidVidReview

    I’m pretty sure Ford’s SYNC system will read messages to you, but not sure if it’ll allow you to respond via voice.

  21. Nick Tomaino

    This kind of app is an app that I would love to use. Unfortunately, it seems as though there is nothing out there for the iPhone that is worth using yet. If you read the comments for Text’nDrive Pro in the App Store, it clearly is not built at a quality that warrants people paying 99 cents for it for it, let alone $21. All of the issues that you mention in your post are issues that many of the 92 reviewers write about, so I don’t think they are the result of an “operator error”. It has a 2 star rating in the App Store. I’m surprised that you felt that an app of this quality is even worth mentioning on your blog.

  22. Aaron Klein

    Saw a new take on an old bumper sticker the other day.”Honk if you love Jesus. Text and drive if you’d like to meet him.”This is indeed a killer app and I’ll be right behind you to buy the one that works well on both SMS and email.

  23. Eric Leebow

    These links should help. Have yet to try Dial2Do, however it seems interesting that it could read your tweets aloud while you drive. This seems to be exactly what you’re looking for. The others may be useful as well if you’re simply looking to disable the texting functionality on your phone, and enable a voice application. OnStar may be offering something in this space as well.Saw Dial2Dohttp://www.dial2do.comPhoneGuardhttp://www.phoneguard.comZoomSaferhttp://www.zoomsafer.comLocation Labshttp://www.locationlabs.comStart Talkinghttp://www.starttalking.comVlingohttp://www.vlingo.comOnStarhttp://www.onstar.com

    1. Aaron Klein

      PhoneGuard looks to be a huge risk. If I download that, I might win a Justin Bieber tour jacket, which would be a disaster.

      1. Eric Leebow

        The odds of winning a Justin Bieber jacket are pretty much against you.  If I won, I’d probably auction it off.

        1. Aaron Klein

          Whew. 😉

    2. fredwilson

      wow. that’s going to be a lot of downloading and trying

  24. William Mougayar

    I downloaded the iPhone app and was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked. But I can’t imagine that even doing voice texting isn’t distracting while driving. The real solution to safety while driving is to get in the passenger or back seat while typing.I turned it on while typing this and I see it as a useful app while at my desk potentially, not driving necessarily. If the app could be configured so that the voice comes on only for priority emails for e.g., I could see benefits to that use case.Basically, I see Voice as “part” of other apps, and not just for email reading.

  25. the thoughtspaces

    I’ve never met a driver yet who has driven with an absolute vow of silence, voice recognition makes sense then because voice texting is conversation.  It is when you fiddle with things like a phone, the car radio buttons or coffee cups etc that distraction becomes a problem.  Ultimately the same common sense rules apply when conversing and driving a car – the same line that was in Glengarry Glen Ross – “you never open your mouth until you know what the shot is”.  In other words voice texting and equanimity go hand in hand.M.

  26. Conor Moran

    Check out Dial2Do. These guys can sort you out in a heartbeat!

    1. fredwilson

      will dothanks

    2. William Mougayar

      no iPhone 🙁

      1. Conor Moran

        For the iPhone you can just add the dial2do number to your contacts. Use the iPhone voice dial call it and you can still do texts, emails, calendar, twitter, etc handsfree.

  27. Abijah

    How did we get to a place where we are trying to turn voice to text instead of improving the experience of voice communication? Why not just -1. Simplify how calls are made, no more ringing implement an alert system that someone would like to talk the person that initiates can set the amount of time they are available and when that time expires the alert goes away2. Voicemail system that gets straight into the message and provides call information on the screen, no more “you have 3 new messages and 18 saved messages,” or “you have reached Steve at Steve company…” – these are a waste3. Promote the option that’s been available for years to go straight to the message system I could go on and on but the fact is the speed and ease of voice beats texting any day, the process is just ancient and needs updating.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      Good point…and gotcha on that.  The thing is, you have to develop something that raises the bar to enable a smoother transition of the herd over to something that will enable freedom to drive and walk responsibly.

  28. Chris Matthieu

    Hi Fred,Having two teenagers myself, your post intrigued me.  I quickly created a Tropo (http://tropo.com) application using the Scripting API and a small Sinatra-based Ruby script to do the following:- To send a text, call (415) 349-3120 and say the phone number that you would like to text and then speak your message.  Tropo then transcribes the message and places an outbound call to the desired number and reads the message to them.- All messages sent through this app allow you to respond to the text message using your voice and speech recognition and the process repeats.I open sourced this code at https://github.com/chrismat… in case anyone would like to extend it or perhaps even create a new business around this idea and head start.Thanks,Chris

    1. Chris Matthieu

      BTW, you can also text 415-349-3120 and it will call my mobile phone and read me the text message via my bluetooth and allow me to respond to the message using my voice.  Hands-free texting via Tropo 🙂

      1. tyronerubin

        Wow nice one Chris

    2. fredwilson

      Whoa. Very cool!

  29. Michael D. Norman

    Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure the issue with using your car’s bluetooth is, well, with the car’s bluetooth.  Auto manufacturers aren’t up on technology, and so they do the bare minimum. (There are other reasons tech doesn’t work as well in cars, of course, like having much higher tolerances for heat and vibration, but I digress.) The car’s bluetooth is usually triggered by the phone’s incoming/outgoing call feature or the controls on your steering wheel, and that’s pretty much it. So, if you want to make a call, your car’s bluetooth can do that, but if you want to use it for even taking a voice memo on your phone, it probably won’t work.FWIW, I agree with the other posters that the real solution is self-driving cars, but unfortunately that’s still quite a while away.

  30. Giri Sreenivas

    I built and shipped DriveSmart when I was @ T-Mobile: http://www.engadget.com/201…http://www.nytimes.com/2011…We took a product position that distractions should be 100% minimized when on the road. Might want to check it out. It’s integrated into the operating system to do things that over the top apps simply cannot do.

    1. fredwilson

      I will check it out

  31. Phil M

    The problem may lie in the microphone placement, or voice quality that the in-car Bluetooth system allows. It may just not be a good enough quality microphone (or there may too much ambient noise) to give the vice recognition software enough data to work with. This is a common issue for voice recognition in dictation, as well.You might want to try using a good quality Bluetooth headset, or even a wired headset connected to your phone. Plantronics is a good brand in that respect. Might be the solution to your “operator error.”Alternatively, you could put the phone on speaker, and hold it like a walkie-talkie. I’ve used the Dragon dictate app like that, and the quality is good. The dragon app can also send voice to text messages or email, but it won’t read incoming text messages or emails aloud.

  32. Larry

    Mr. Wilson- my name is Larry Favalora and I am the CEO of http://www.MavenHoldings.com which just launched http://www.GetVext.com- a NON-APP service that works with ANY PHONE, ANY SERVICE in the USA and Canada to send text messages, emails, updates Favebook and Twitter, can send GROUP TEXTS and soon will be able to update anything on Outlook, Evernote, Salesforce and more!Look us up. We are self funded till now- we are now raising $2.5 mil in a Convertible Note and plan on a DPO in 2012.I would be happy to show you our service and explain our strategy and why will we be a dominant player in this market space.Larry Favalora918-289-2146, ext 300 (Linda, my assistant)[email protected]

    1. Sean O Sullivan

      Larry – getvext.com site giving a ruby error – may wanna check that.Sean

  33. Matt Howard

    2 years ago ZoomSafer partnered with the talented team at Dial2do to launch a value-add service called Voice Mate — http://zoomsafer.com/produc….  VoiceMate read your incoming emails and texts and enabled you to respond, hands-free, using only your voice.  If i am honest, it worked OK, but the user experience was sub-optimal, especially the speech-to-text portion of the service — which was non-human-assisted (opposite of Spinvox). Since then our business has evolved and we’re now focused on delivering software services to commercial fleet owners — helping them measure / manage employee use of cell phones while driving on the job.  Active policy controls for BB and Android.  Passive analytic controls for all other phones.   Business is looking good,.

  34. David Shellabarger

    If you can’t find anything that works for you then let me know and I’ll write it.It would be a great compliment to the parental controls suite for Android that I’m writing and would work well with my Bluetooth Volume app that auto-adjusts the different sound volumes when connect and disconcerting from Bluetooth. Link to Bluetooth Volume for those interested: https://market.android.com/

  35. raleigh1985

    As you mentioned, texting while driving can be dangerous but is unfortunately becoming common place with a generation of smart phone users hitting the roads. Solving this issue could potentially save thousands of lives and would most likely sell very well to safety minded parents. The only problem will be making this type of technology as quick and efficient as texting. Persuading people to use the technology could prove to be very difficult as well.

  36. Chris Warrick

    Android lets me do this OOTB.

  37. Douglas Crets

    My sister’s new car came with this feature already built-in. It works. 

    1. fredwilson

      What kind of car did she get?

      1. Douglas Crets

        I feel bad that I don’t really remember what it was, but she was showingthis to me when she picked me up at the airport. I know it was a Ford. Iwill ask her — she’s on vacation and out of range — and email you withdetails. I think it was a Ford Sync. http://www.ford.com/technol

        1. harpos_blues

          Fred & Douglas,It’s the Ford Sync technology. Please see http://www.ford.com/technol… and http://www.ford.com/technol… .If I understand correctly, the technology is currently available to limited Ford limited vehicles, may be made available to other manufacturers in time.Don’t quote me on this as the excessive heat/humidity in rural Maryland has made my brain soft.

  38. Brent Daugherty

    Last time I checked, the iPhone SDK does not give you access to incoming text nor does it allow you to send texts without physically pressing the send button in the SMS app. So that is why there are no good iPhone solutions. 

  39. Vasudev Ram

    Interesting post. I tend to agree with the people who say that texting and calling should not be allowed while driving, no matter what the tech used to mitigate the risks.On a not-too-related (it’s related by being about sound, as is your post) but interesting note, check this:Les Paul Google Doodle Gets Standalone Site:http://www.pcmag.com/articl…It’s a recent Google Doodle – done using HTML5 – to celebrate guitarist Les Paul’s anniversary. The cool thing is that you can “play” the logo with your mouse to generate a tune (it plays music as you move the mouse across the strings). And you can also record your tune and share it as a link.

  40. Lisa Padilla

    Recently on Effn Science they did a test between alcohol and texting, to see which was worse. Texting won. It’s scary! Let’s find a solution for this dangerous habit!

  41. Adam Yeung

    Voice Texting?  That sounds an awful lot like voice-mail to me.  My opinion is we need to rethink voice-mail and make it easier to use.  

  42. Guest

    forgive me for being a luddite, but wouldn’t voice texting be considered a phone call?or, at least leaving a voicemail. 

  43. joel grossman

    If you are looking for a carrier-grade solution, Location Labs (www.LocationLabs.com) powers T-Mobile’s DriveSmart Plus (mentioned earlier, see family.t-mobile.com/safety-…, which automatically detects when a user is driving and puts the phone into “Driving Mode” (and then turns off Driving Mode when the driving stops). Driving Mode immediately sends incoming calls to voicemail (no ring) and suppresses text message notifications. The same technology will be powering Sprint’s DriveFirst later this summer (newsroom.sprint.com/article….The beauty of these solutions is the automatic nature of the service (nothing for the user to do) and the integration with your carrier’s family plan (as a parent, you can automatically provision this service on the other devices).Interestingly, our research has shown that teens know that texting and driving is something that they shouldn’t do and, here’s the surprise–they mostly DON’T initiate calls or text messages on their own. Instead, they cannot resist the allure of the ring or the buzz. We have designed the service so that the automatic Driving Mode addresses the primary distraction (incoming calls/texts) and we hope our services help keep everyone’s loved ones safer.

  44. Josh Rehman

    There’s something called “HeyTell” on Android and iOS (http://heytell.com/)Instead of converting your words to text, it just sends the audio. It’s kind of like “intentionally getting voicemail” – I really like it.It is sound theory, too. The data maintains the same level of entropy across the experience – you speak, they listen. By contrast texting (or typing) forces you to cram high entropy thought into super low entropy characters – you speak, they read. Reducing entropy is a computationaly difficult and error-prone process, and HeyTell eliminates the need entirely. (I love answers that obviate the problem.)

  45. Shilpi Roy - Virtual Assistant

    I would love to have a car which self drives so that it relieves me from the tension to drive in traffic..

  46. Volnado

    Fred a way to make that app even better would be to make it motion activated via the location functionality of the phone. So when you are going over say 5mph walking speed… the app switches on so you can only access the texts via the app. My friend came up with this idea and I saw an app that was somewhat similar although I dont think it was android.

    1. fredwilson

      Some of the apps I tried do this

  47. Yonatan Raz-Fridman

    hi Fred. you are totally correct, and I think that you should try out the ‘Thoughts’ iPhone app by Jawbone – http://www.jawbone.com/thou….It actually turns all your txting with friends to be based on voice. 

  48. Dave W Baldwin

    Some interesting comments. Ford has openly made a commitment toward the total voice dash.  That is going to require something more than just creating the 100% accurate Voice/Text, you still have a ways to go attaining true efficiency.  It is a matter of Intelligence from the Artificial side.Moving to the phone/tablet, you do have to have the higher AI to get this done.  Accuracy then what to do in responding, forwarding, saving for later and so on WITHOUT having to push extra buttons is required… at least setting the bar at the right level.In this subject area, investors need to do the due dillegence thinking forward because the architectural points of design are vital… or it will crumble not too far out.

  49. Mike Costello

    Fred -I’m COO and one of Matt Howard’s partners at ZoomSafer.  It’s an interesting discussion to solve for a killer voice texting app but if you want to think about the space more broadly as a technical entrepreneur, here’s a bit of background:Here at ZoomSafer, we first think about three different market segments:  fleets/corporate customers, “prosumers” (you and me), and young drivers.  We believe the fleet space is the way to go today but given more movement in a couple of market signals (e.g., laws or insurance discounts) the broader consumer market will come into play.We’ve been at this for over two years and learned many things:- There are two high quality studies (Va Tech and U of Utah) and although the numbers are different, it’s very clear that anything using your keypad is much more dangerous than using your voice.  I haven’t seen any research yet that would look at someone having a “texting conversation” in their car while driving (the plausible scenario with young drivers and a voice texting app).- Behaviorally, people don’t have to be able to text and email while driving.  It’s amazing how many people we’ve talked to who all said they have to have all of their phone’s capabilities 100% of the time while they’re driving – but after a few weeks of having the decision made for them (at least for emailing and texting), find that they don’t have to have it and are better, more focused drivers for it.  The simple notion of an auto-reply that says “I’m driving and will get back to you when I’m done” is more than enough for most of our customers to feel like they’ve participated in the conversation and don’t need to pick up their phone.If you want a voice texting service, there are two key questions in finding a solution:  1) Does the service start automatically or are you required to start it manually?  If you have to start it manually, we’ve found your usage rate will be much lower.  The trigger for automatic activation is a very difficult part of the whole equation – we have five triggers (GPS, Bluetooth, OBD, Cloud based Telematics, and App-to-App) and each has a best case application.2) Do you control the timing of the conversation or does the application?  If safety is first (and you’re not interested in having your passenger hear about your latest deal), you have to be in control of the timing.Our solution for texting and emailing while driving is called VoiceMate.  It’s powered by the Dial2Do service.  It’s debatable whether an on-deck or an off-deck solution is the best, but we believe the most important features for our off-deck solution are that a) it gives you control of when you interact with it, and b) we’re not consuming limited phone based technology resources to use it (this one will change over time of course).My kids are younger than yours and having been in the business now for two years, I don’t plan on letting them touch their phones for at least a year after they get their licenses.  It might be nice to have a solution for them after that but I’m still not sure I’d want them to be focused on the latest news from Twitter instead of what’s happening around them on the roads.Cheers!Mike 

    1. fredwilson

      Great comment. I’m super interested in the broad consumer application. Notso much the fleet stuff

      1. Mike Costello

        Fred – Very happy to talk with you about the space anytime.  We hang a shingle  for consumers and have active users giving us feedback.  But our relationships with insurance companies, wireless carriers, and telematics/auto OEM providers are just as valuable (or more) in terms of building our business.Cheers,Mike

  50. denver_dave

    I think the problems you’re having are endemic to Android’s rather poor bluetooth stack.  I have a hands-free unit which pipes the phone calls through my car stereo.  It works great, once it’s properly connected. But the connection problem is difficult.Try turning on bluetooth, then rebooting the phone.  It’s worked for me on 3 different Android phones.

    1. fredwilson

      Will try. I hope they fix the Bluetooth. Its an important piece of the OS

  51. RacerRick

    TextnDrive forces me to setup my email before it will work with text messages.I didn’t want that.  Ugh.

  52. Parafly

    What about simply the native TTS support built into Android? Caveat: For some bizarre reason, TTS used to work really well on my old Droid 1. I now have this super snazzy HTC Thunderbolt and the TTS on it is really unusable unfortunately. It isn’t even close to correctly interpreting what I say; the old Droid used to do a real bang-up job of getting the words right. I used it all the time to send out brief texts. 

  53. Jon_Fischer

    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies show that active parental involvement is key to improving teen driving behavior (Both for distracted driving and speeding).I’m the founder of Speedbump, a teen driving safety app for Android. We take a different approach to the problem. Speedbump monitors teens for speeding and distracted driving and will report dangerous driving back to parents. However, if a teen is driving safely their privacy is protected and nothing is reported to parents.I would like to give your family a free account and see what you think about Speedbump. Reach me on twitter @SpeedbumpGPS:twitter and I can get you set up.

  54. Rishi Khullar

    Text requires attention:  we have auto-correct constantly wanting us to sound crazy, spell check and we’re even limited to 140 characters in Twitter’s case. We created utell.it to bring voice back and make it easier to message socially on the go. During beta testing, we learned that one of the most frequent uses of utellit is voice texting. Step 1: press record. Step 2: choose your contact Step 3: sendThe message recipient just clicks a link and the audio message starts to play.  Not only is it safer than typing, it allows you to hear your kids’ voices.  Win-win.

  55. Collin Stewart

    It’s already been pointed out (TJ Leonard below) but I personally use Vlingo InCar and it works great on iPhone and Android and is compatible with my BlueAnt Wireless Speakerphone system. I’m a sales rep so I’m in my car all the time and my customers and suppliers text me all the time.  Vlingo has made sending and receiving texts safer and a little fun.  A side note, I’ve been using Vlingo InCar since it came out as a beta for a certain carrier only. I believe it’s available for all carriers now (I’m in Canada and managed to obtain it no problem). Link: http://blog.vlingo.com/vlin…

  56. Christine_losq

    Call me old-fashioned, but the message young/new, inexperienced drivers need to hear is, “Turn off the phone until you are parked at your destination.” New drivers should be focusing on the road, period. New drivers need lots of road experience to become proficient drivers. Any device that encourages them to think they can multi-task while at the wheel as soon as they get their license is a recipe for tragedy at a young age.



  57. Jeff Pelton

    What about just sending pre-recorded voice mails?It seems very strange that we completely ignore this as an option.  I want to be able to pre record a voice message under 2 minutes, maybe 2 seconds, that I can send you.  This would let you consume and reply to me on your own time without the ringing and interruption.To me this is a perfect example of over thinking a simple problem.

  58. Guest


  59. Yaron Oren

    I’m not generally one for comment thread self-promotion but this one hits too close to home, as my company (www.ispeech.org) pioneered this space about 2 years ago. So here goes my first post on your blog after a few years of loyal readership.The killer app you are looking for is DriveSafe.ly (www.drivesafe.ly). Our 12 million users and 725,000 Facebook fans (www.facebook.com/drivesafe.ly) would also agree, although apparently none of them read your blog by the looks of this comment thread. I’d be happy to send you a few free upgrades to the pro version (voice response is a pro feature) in private, if you are interested.That said, the problem of distracted driving is not just limited to “texting”. For example, your blog is very addictive and I would bet there are many “AVCing while Driving” culprits out here. If you really want to help make the roads safer, you may want to think about speech-enabling this very blog ;)Thanks.Yaron

    1. teri lawler

      Drive Safe is great on Android and BlackBerry, but isn’t too great on my iPhone (since it  only reads google voice SMS.

  60. webjoe

    I have used BlueAnt S4 that reads SMS text messages, but so far, I’m not sure I can trust any voice dictation software to do this well anyways.

  61. Ivan Macdonald

    Ivan here from Dial2Do…  We focus on the joined up experience of bluetooth device and handsfree-service. So in addition to our own service we also bundle/whitelabel with a number Bluetooth device manufacturers… Plantronics Vocalyst (www.plantronics.com/vocalyst)  is a Dial2Do powered service that’s integrated into Plantronics Bluetooth headsets – you push a button on the headset to use the service.  Jawbone include us as one of their MyTalk apps that extend the Jawbone ICON/ERA headsets, and recently Supertooth (http://www.supertooth.net/U…  announced a new handsfree car-kit with a dedicated hardware button that invokes our service.    There are more headsets sold every year than cars so we think this is a good way to serve the consumer – they buy a headset or speakerphone to make phone-calls handsfree and then figure that they can use it to do other stuff by voice too.  Most of our users are in the US/Canada, we’ve also launched localized versions in Europe, AU/NZ, UK. In reality a lot of the services mentioned above are evolving quickly.  Most have been designed to work around technical limitations (bluetooth, OS limitations) and as these limitations fall away, we can design better user experiences.- a lot of apps still have difficulty dealing with Bluetooth – on iOS you’re restricted quite a bit unless the bluetooth device manufacturer has paid the MFi ‘tax’ to apple, even on Android until 2.1 Bluetooth support was a bit ugly.   This is changing and enabling us to make the user experience slicker going forward.  And the big killer on iOS is getting at text messaging, which right now is locked down hard.- voice apps/services need not be symmetrical in terms of their use of voice technologies – so a lot of users are happy to consume voice (text to speech) but still uncomfortable giving voice commands (voice recognition).  Partly this is a trust issue, partly its a reluctance to ‘talk to a machine’. And its different for giving commands -v- dictation. – a lot of the time the debate turns to  “drivers should concentrate on driving, not having their text messages read out”.  Whether we like it or not some people will try to do dumb and dangerous stuff while driving.  Our goal is to make staying connected to the content and services you use, as safe as using the radio.Anyway, good luck with trying it all out all those services and also with those young drivers of yours.

  62. Nikko Ström

    Mango. http://www.microsoft.com/pr… “Built-in voice-to-text/text-to-voice functionality, which will allow for hands-free texting or chatting.”

  63. Gal Melamed

    I met someone the other day saying that “Driving is the real distraction…” :-)People want to enjoy their content, everywhere. I am not sure if drivers will agree to be off-line while driving on an average of hour and a half, a DAY!This post is FASCINATING(!) because it emphasizes the true need for in-car entertainment solution for today’s & tomorrow’s content.One would assume that new and exciting solutions are up on the horizon, since the need is clear…..

  64. Lars

    As much as I value Fred’s perspective in general, I think he’s really off on this one.Finding a technical solution – or loophole – to texting while driving is enabling unsafe behavior.The cognitive impact of texting – and simply talking on the phone – while driving is well documented. Obviously looking down at your smart phone to read or enter a text is a disaster waiting to happen, but the distraction is still enormous if just listening to the text. It is a exponentially worse distraction than listening to music; bad for any driver, and particularly so for young inexperienced ones.As a pilot, I’ve learned that communication can come at a cost of focus; in phases of flight that demand high workload, you defer radio calls in the service of safety. The same should be the case for texting, and in my view, mobile phone use in general for young drivers. We need technical solutions to this issue that actually encourage safe driving, not enable addictive distraction.