OTTER, a Bainbridge Island-based company, aims to alleviate that problem with an eponymous app that allows a user to cede his or her texting to an automated system while driving — alerting people who text the driver that the recipient is behind the wheel — as well as silence notifications and the ringer while the car is in motion.
The company’s app is already available on Android. But, because of restrictions placed on iOS developers, OTTER can’t make the jump over to iOS. To try to get Apple to budge, OTTER has started a petition on Change.org to ask the iPhone maker to open up its platform to apps that prevent texting while driving.
Apple offers a hands-free texting solution in the form of Siri, but a recent study has shown that hands-free texting doesn’t do anything to ease the distraction brought on by texting. OTTER says there’s no speed-activated, texting auto-reply software available on the iPhone today.
“Now, more than ever, it’s time take on this epidemic on a large scale and Apple has the ability to tackle it like few other companies can. Our goal is to give bicyclists, motorcyclists and all drivers an easy way to let Apple know that this is a priority – and it takes less than 30 seconds to sign the petition,” OTTER Co-Founder John Lam said in a press release.
It’s worth noting, however, that OTTER is asking a lot from Apple. Allowing apps to automatically text on a user’s behalf opens up a lot of potential abuse cases for malicious devs to turn unsuspecting iPhone users into text spamming machines. That’s not to say Apple won’t end up doing what OTTER is asking for, especially in light of Tim Cook’s remarks at D11 when he said that he was interested in potentially opening up iOS, but what OTTER wants is a tall order.
If you want to sign the petition, you can find it here. As of press time, 91 people had signed the petition.
Blair Hanley Frank is a technology journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also worked for Macworld, PCWorld and TechHive. He can be found on Twitter @belril.