Our phones are the great temptation when it comes to driving safely. A new Android app seeks to change all that by blocking out all distractions, such as notifications, calls and messages and giving you access only to essential functions via voice control. InCar is available for free via the Google Play store.
We had a chance to preview the app before launch and was intrigued by the premise and features, but wish it worked better. When you connect to your car via Bluetooth, InCar determines you're about to start driving and turns on drive-safe mode. Through the app, you decide whether to allow all calls and messages from anyone or just priority contacts. You can specify these via the app's settings.
The coolest part of InCar is its ability to scan your messages and emails for action items (such as "Pick up the laundry" or "Have you received the proposal?") and read out just those parts to you. This way, you don't have to pay too much attention to the robotic voice telling you what your friend said, but zoom in on the important parts. During our time with the beta, this feature worked well when it was able to detect incoming messages.
Of the three emails we sent from a desktop computer to while in driving mode, only two made it through, but it took at least 10 minutes after the message had arrived in my inbox for InCar to register it. When the app eventually received the mail, a badge showed up over the icon with a list, indicating one email with an action item had been received. We tapped the icon, and InCar said how many messages had been received, who they were from, what the subject lines were and what the important action items were.
After each message, we could respond immediately, shelve for later, mark as complete or exit and stop reading by saying simple commands such as "not now" or "exit."
InCar decides who's a priority contact by looking at your starred or favorite contacts, recent and frequent communications, as well as people that are located around you. People you are scheduled to meet that day are also promoted to priority level.
The app also provides drivers turn-by-turn GPS navigation via Google Maps and even scans your calendar for locations you are headed to and dispenses instructions on how to get there. It will learn from your habits over time when you might head home and pull up those directions as well. You can also compose messages and texts or start navigation via voice control by tapping the microphone symbol on the app's driving mode screen.
The InCar Android app isn't unique, with most all of the carriers offering an app to block messaging, as well as a host of other third-party apps that behave similarly. However, we like that the app is smart enough to parse those parts of messages that are still important to pass along.