Ding. You get a new notification on your phone. You want to check it. No, you need to, really badly, but you’re driving. Ah, screw it. You glance down, away from the road, and you check the darn thing anyway. It’s a potentially deadly decision millions of people make multiple times a day, one that Tel Aviv startup Project RAY aims to drive down with its new “eyes-free” RayGo device.
The black and yellow gadget, derived from patented smartphone technology originally created for the blind, enables you to talk on your phone and check your texts, email, and a host of apps while driving – without taking your eyes off the road.
To use it, you first clamp the five-button, hard plastic RayGo controller to your steering wheel. Then you pair it with your vehicle’s Bluetooth feature. The RayGo unit, working with its companion mobile app (Android-only for now), converts your favorite apps, like Gmail, Spotify, your smartphone’s calendar, etc., to “drive mode.” The mode is essentially a simplified version of your existing apps that programs them to “talk” to you.
To respond to the RayGo-adapted versions of your apps, you can use the steering wheel remote or speak certain voice commands. Pressing up or down on the remote (using your thumb) scrolls through various menu options. Press the left side of the RayGo remote button to navigate back and press the right to signify “enter” or to give a voice command. You can scroll through and select which messages and notifications to listen to, then respond to them either by canned RayGo text responses (“Sure! I’m driving. Will call later,” “Call soon,” “I’m busy,” and “Can’t talk right now”) or by speaking certain specific commands.
RayGo’s inventors, Israeli entrepreneurs Michael Vakulenko and Boaz Zilberman, designed the gadget to stop functioning when you shouldn’t be using it. Relying on your smartphone’s accelerometer and GPS components, RayGo knows when you’re driving fast or executing a turn. When speeding along at a good clip, the device’s audible responses become delayed and more pronounced, reports USA Today. When you receive a message while in the middle of a turn, RayGo will pause until you finish the turn.
Despite being billed as an anti-distraction device, some claim that the RayGo in and of itself is a distraction, pulling your focus away from driving, even momentarily. It also somewhat limits where and how you hold your steering wheel and could possibly obstruct airbag deployment.
There’s a similar product called Navdy set to launch soon. Spun as a kind of “Google Glass for your car,” it’s a heads-up display that allows drivers to obtain directions and receive notifications on a dashboard-mounted transparent screen. Pre-ordering the unit will set you back $299.
RayGo is significantly cheaper at only $55 per device. The gadget, available for pre-order on Indiegogo right now, already surpassed its $30,000 funding goal on the popular crowdfunding platform with 13 days to go. Shipping is slated to start this October. For an amusing and alarming look at how it works, check out the promo video below:
For a more detailed RayGo test-drive, watch this demo: