Car mode apps: Choosing the best for your driving

Driver Safety
Car mode apps: Choosing the best for your driving
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Key Takeaways

There’s a lot to focus on when you’re behind the wheel. Other vehicles, traffic signs, your own car’s instruments: the driver’s seat can be a distracting place. Which is why choosing car mode apps can be so important.

Car mode apps have grown in popularity over the last five years. With the rise of WiFi-connected cars and the Internet of Things (IoT), drivers are facing more distractions behind the wheel than ever.  Car mode apps seek to “turn down the volume” on these distractions. And they do so in a number of ways, primarily focused around hiding information drivers don’t need, and making the information they do need easier to find.

So, what should drivers look for in a reliable car mode app? And which apps on the market currently make the grade?

Zendrive takes a look!

Car mode apps must-haves: Real-time telematics

One of the most important things car mode apps offer drivers is knowledge. Which, if you’ll remember your schoolbooks, is power.

That’s why any good car mode apps should feature built-in telematics that monitor driving in real time. Things like speeding, acceleration, hard braking, hard cornering, and collisions all indicate dangerous or distracted driving. Yet many drivers may not even be aware of these behaviors until a car mode app with telematics points it out to them.

In fact,  the best car mode apps should offer driver coaching built upon its telematics data. By offering feedback and suggestions to improve driving behaviors, driver coaching can reduce the likelihood of a collision by 49 percent.

And if you’re a parent with a teen behind the wheel? Well, now you know exactly what to yell at them about when they get home.

Car mode apps must-haves: Do not disturb mode

Of course, one way car mode apps cut down on distractions is by silencing the biggest culprit: your smartphone.

They do this in a few different ways. The first is a “hard” Do Not Disturb, which senses when the car is moving at vehicle speeds (usually >15 mph), and automatically blocks incoming texts messages. And it may even send automatic responses to the senders that you’re driving.

Neat, right?

The other is a “soft” Do Not Disturb, which swaps out the phone’s usual text and graphic interfaces for much bigger, simpler, and easier-to-read versions. Buttons are larger and harder to miss, and messages/calls from approved senders can be allowed through.

Other car mode apps feature hands-free functions like text-to-voice message reading and automated ignoring of calls.

So, which car mode apps are currently setting the standard?

Car mode apps we like

AT&T DriveMode

Over at AT&T, their team is leading the way when it comes to car mode apps on the market today with AT&T DriveMode.

Available on Android devices, DriveMode checks many of the boxes we discussed earlier for car mode apps. It silences incoming messages and alerts. It sends automatic unavailable replies to text messages. Similarly, it senses when the vehicle is traveling >15 mph and engages automatically. And it even makes navigation available with a simpler one-touch interface.

DriveMode does still allow for music usage, but provides a simpler interface to do so, as with navigation.

Toyota Safe & Sound

Leave it to the innovators at Toyota to develop something as useful – and silly – as Toyota Safe & Sound. We love this care mode app for how it gamifies driver safety.

Like AT&T DriveMode, Safe & Sound accomplishes many of the core fundamental functions a good car mode app should, but puts more of the control in the hands of parents.

It features a “hard” Do No Disturb mode that disables all calls, messages, and social media notifications. It also boasts telematics that detect if the driver is speeding…and notifies his or her parents automatically! Uh-oh!

What’s more, Safe & Sound allows parents to sync their phone with their teen’s and virtually “hand them the keys” by giving them permission to drive via button press.

But perhaps our favorite feature is what happens if a teen driver is speeding, using their phone, or otherwise “breaking the rules.” It’s what puts the “Sound” in “Safe & Sound.” If the app detects dangerous driving, it automatically stops the driver’s music, and plays a pre-determined playlist of their parents’ favorite music! The horror!

Safe, sound, and – yes – even fun.


Our third choice for our favorite car mode app is also the most flexible. It’s Drivemode, available for Android devices on the Google Play store.

Drivemode features all the capabilities we highlighted above, but gives the user the ability to customize their experience for their needs. There’s a “soft” Do Not Disturb, large easy-to-use buttons, and voice commands. And it even features automatic launching at a certain speed.

But what sets Drivemode apart is the ability to pick and choose which of these features you want engaged together at the same time, and to what level of restriction. And that’s the big difference.

That makes Drivemode great for users who want some of the safety features of car mode apps, but whose job or routine requires them to use their phone sometimes. For ride-sharing drivers like Uber and Lyft, Drivemode can be a great way to improve their customer ratings and score. It allows them to demonstrate their commitment to safety, while also using their phone to navigate, play music, and otherwise provide a comfortable riding experience.

Closing thoughts

It can be tough to stay focused behind the wheel. But distracted driving is an epidemic, and car mode apps are a great way to help.

By knowing what features to look for in a driving mode app – and what some of the best examples on the market are – drivers and parents can make better-informed decisions, and help keep our roads safe.

Learn more about Zendrive and our solutions below.

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