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Unholy Distraction: Robin, the Android App, Raises Risk

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In the old Batman television series, and in many subsequent movies, Batman always has plenty on his mind. After all, the villains continue to transform themselves, mutating into seemingly ever-more-evil incarnations.

But at least the Caped Crusader could count on a little help from his friends: Alfred, the loyal, increasingly tech-savvy butler, for one. And of course Robin, sometimes known as the Boy Wonder.

But now, it seems, the name Robin has been appropriated by the developers of driving apps for smart phones. That’s right, Gotham, the new digital driving assistant for Android phones is called Robin.

To be sure, the intentions are good. The app is supposed to enable Android users to voice commands and hand signals to communicate with the device and access information on driving routes, traffic patterns, parking availability, the weather and so on.

In fact, Robin will even be designed to update drivers on their Twitter feeds. The application is currently in beta testing.

The problem is that constant exposure to so much data puts the driver at risk of cognitive overload. Even Batman can only respond safety to so many stimuli at once. When stimuli become excessive, the danger of distracted driving accidents rises rapidly. This is inevitably a safety concern, no matter how much real-time information is available.

In other words, it isn’t enough to stay safe just because you’re not holding the device in your hands. Even a device that is mounted right on the dashboard and responds to voice and hand signals can overwhelm the driver’s ability to concentrate on the road.

Far too often, the result of such concentration lapses is motor vehicle accidents. Even the Batmobile is put at risk by this new Robin.