State laws banning texting and cell phone use while driving have not seemed to resonate with drivers still compelled to type away on their iPhones and Blackberry while behind the wheel. Well, now there’s an app for that. It’s StartTalking, the world’s first smartphone application that is voice-controlled all the way, letting drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel while composing, sending and receiving text messages.


The new app was unveiled today at the Mobilize conference in San Francisco by Boston-based startup AdelaVoice. The one-year-old company says it was motivated to create the tool after finding that other voice-recognition tools on the market, such as Google’s Voice Actions, still required users to look at the screen in order to open up the text message feature and send a message.

StartTalking operates purely by voice commands, allowing it to work even when your phone is dark or the keyboard is locked. Users just speak a pre-assigned name to “wake up” the phone, speak the message and then command the phone to send it off. The system then reads the message back as the software has understood it and waits for the user to confirm the message. Likewise, when someone sends you a text message, the service will read it back.

This will certainly be an alluring feature for a public consumed with the topic. We recently reported that the dangers of texting while driving was the number one technology-related story last year. On top of that are the hard numbers: distracted driving killed 5,474 people last year and injured nearly 500,000, according to government figures.

The test will be how accurate the voice recognition system is, and how quickly AdelaVoice can expand the feature to other operating systems. StartTalking is available on Android now, through the Android Market, with iPhone and Blackberry versions to come on the market soon. The texting, voice dialing and navigation system commands are free for now, but AdelaVoice says it plans to extend the technology to third party developers and charge for premium services down the road.

Maybe this is something even America’s most famous anti-texting crusader, Oprah Winfrey, can get behind.