Windows Phone drive mode can make you drive better, but should it?


A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft introduced the world – or at 3 percent of it – to its latest creation to the little OS that could. Thus we met latest innovation from Windows Phone – drive mode. Adam Lein took us through a brief tour of the highlights of the new update and even explained how one could go about getting it on one’s Windows Phone without having to wait for AT&T’s hideously long thorough testing and official release. If you haven’t watched those videos, I highly recommend you give them a peek.

One of the features that Microsoft brings to the table is called Drive Mode. Like the original Adam, I’m dubious as to how useful it will actually turn out to be. But that point is neither here nor there. Just how useful the app is or is not really the point here.  The point is your mom.

Your mother is a phone

Microsoft family photo

Microsoft family photo

No, really. Microsoft is trying to be your mom in its own not-as-creepy-as-it-sound kind of way. It’s trying to control your behavior and basically save you from yourself. Microsoft is tightening up those laces on those black combat boots and dictating to you how to behave from its safe offices over in Redmond. The ones behind the guard rails and the armed security guards.

Now, I’m not advocating texting and driving. It’s about a stupid a thing as a human can do, aside from lighting their eyebrows on fire while checking to see if the barbecue is off. Right Uncle Charlie? Distracted driving is one of the main causes of vehicular accidents all around the world and if Microsoft wants to try and reduce that, good for them.

From A to B

But I do have a thing against companies telling you how to behave. I mean, what’s next? Maybe your cellphone will turn its screen off when it detects it’s moving at a walking pace to prevent you from running into lamp posts, mailboxes, or Jehova’s witnesses. Maybe it’ll shut the phone off when the altimeter detects its more than XXX feet above sea level?

I can see how Microsoft sees itself as a benevolent software maker. And don’t get me wrong, I understand that drive mode is not unique to Windows Phone GDR3. I’ve toyed with Android’s (or maybe Samsung’s) drive mode. Didn’t do much for me to be honest. Microsoft’s solution is a bit more elegant with zero notifications and text auto-responders. But all the same, I’m just not convinced it’s Microsoft’s job to make sure I drive safe. Isn’t that the government’s job?

What could possibly go wrong?

Personal Responsibility

I’m kidding of course. I’m a huge advocate of personal responsibility. I would like to say that my own phone use while driving is perfectly safe, but that just wouldn’t be the truth. Or at least it wouldn’t be the truth as often as it should be. That being said, I’m still around to grace you with my wisdom. Luck or skill? YOU decide.

I’d like to think that as a society, all around the world, we would have figured out that toying with a smartphone while hurtling down the expressway at 70 miles per hour in a 2,500 pound box of death is a bad idea. Sadly, a vast majority of people out there haven’t gotten that memo. So is it up to Microsoft, Google, or Apple to make that call for us? I don’t think so.  Would I think differently if I had actually been struck by a texter/driver? Probably not. Metaphorically speaking, I tend to blame the people, not the guns.

And so it goes…

Of course that won’t stop software manufacturers from trying. I guess I can applaud their efforts – as long as they leave in an off switch. I don’t necessarily want my phone to shut down while my wife is driving somewhere. That’s why a number of solutions need to be able to distinguish between driver and passenger – on or off.

But whether or not it’s Microsoft’s place to dictate how I use my phone in the car, it seems that’s where we’re headed. Personally, I’d rather leave mom at home. But, as I’m so fond of saying, “adapt or die.” In this case, that truism might be far more true than comfort would dictate. But like it or not, the technology is here. Microsoft’s implementation may not make the most sense – why make turning on drive mode dependent on hands free device? – but it’s here, and it’s being developed. As long as it has an off switch, I’m good. It’s when it doesn’t that it’s really time to start worrying. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put on my tinfoil hat.

tin foil hat dog


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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs.Read more about Adam Doud!