iOnRoad app

iOnRoad app

If you're in the market for a new vehicle, you might be tempted to go for something with high-tech safety features, like a collision-avoidance system. At the moment, though, most of that technology is tied to luxury rides or comes as pricey add-ons. But if you've got an Android smartphone, a new app called iOnRoad promises the same features -- and it's free.

iOnRoad comes to us courtesy of an Israeli start-up called Picitup, which specializes in developing software that analyzes visual data. For example, the company offers a plug-in for e-commerce sites that allows shoppers to search products not just by style or size, but by color. It's not quite as interesting as, say, Google Goggles, but it's definitely on the forward edge of technology.

Now, Picitup has taken its expertise in visual data and applied it to a driving app. In a nutshell, iOnRoad is an aftermarket collision-avoidance system, and here's how it works: using a bracket, simply position your smartphone on the dashboard or windshield so that its camera is facing forward. Crack open the app, and iOnRoad will begin analyzing visual data, pairing it with info from your phone's built-in accelerometer. When the app senses a potential collision with the vehicle ahead of you, it issues an alarm.

iOnRoad can be used in two modes -- either in "augmented reality" mode, where it's broadcast directly onto the smartphone screen, or in "background" mode, allowing you to run another app (e.g. Pandora, Google Maps) in the foreground. Since the only cost associated with iOnRoad is the bracket, it's kind of a heads-up display for the Everyman.

iOnRoad is still in beta, but the company promises a full launch for Android phones later this month. Apps for other operating systems are expected to follow later this summer (though there's no mention of which OSes might be included).  Sign up for beta-testing now, or click through to read a very thorough FAQ. There's also a brief overview video which we've embedded below, though it's not what we'd call high-quality. Maybe it's in beta, too.

Parting thought: it's ironic that we're posting this on the same day that we've also reported on Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's efforts to curb distracted driving, which include placing limits on smartphone integration in new vehicles. iOnRoad makes two important points about that: (1) LaHood has little if any control over the app market, and (2) some apps actually stand a chance of making driving safer.