AT&T Awards 11-Year-Old Girl $20,000 for Distracted Driving App
Although she is only 11 years old — and way too young to drive — sixth-grader Victoria Walker has won a $20,000 award for an app she co-designed to prevent people from texting while driving. The award was given to her and her co-designer, David Grau, a creative director and designer at a California agency, by AT&T, to bring the app to market, as Deborah Netburn reports for the Los Angeles Times.
The app, named “Rode Dog,” works by making it possible for drivers to join a “pack” of friends and family members who are also drivers. Once a driver gets behind the wheel, he or she can check to see if other members of the pack are using their phones to text while driving. If they are, any member of their pack can send them an audio message that sounds like a dog barking. The texting-driver’s phone will then bark incessantly until he or she silences the phone.
Netburn writes that Walker “said she conceived of this app after listening to her three dogs bark and thinking that the sound would be a good deterrent from doing just about anything.”
Walker and Grau met at AT&T’s “It Can Wait” hackathon in Los Angeles, which was held on September 7 and 8 to encourage people to create an app to deter texting while driving, Netburn writes.
As Alexis Santos writes for Engadget, “If you’d rather have a chicken or other animal grab your attention, the duo crafted an in-app shop that offers other wildlife sound sound effects.” Netburn notes that those include a chicken’s clucks and a lion’s roar.
The young Walker said she likes that “This app allows me to protect my parents if they are driving and texting,” as Netburn reports.
“Rode Dog” is not expected to hit iOS, Android, and Windows phones until it is perfected, Santos writes, but the design team will let you know when it is available to buy if you send them your email address at: http://www.rodedog.com/.
The Engadget article inspired a lot of comments, from people with a wide range of opinions. For example, someone named “efektos” writes: “Sounds cute [but] really — who’d use that? And even if someone does — who’d use that more than once or twice?” And a commenter named Greg Lee writes: “This app seems like a huge hassle to use and I really don’t see how this is safer.” Lee was responding to a post by “Nacon,” who writes: “What if the driver crashed because he/she was trying to ‘acknowledge’ it?” A commenter named Simon Johnny writes: “A better solution would be to mandate that new mobile phones are locked from the text message and call screens while the car is moving.”