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Gareth Butterfield takes the Ooono Co-Driver No1 and Co-Driver No2 devices for a spin

The Co-Driver uses community-fed information and GPS to warn you of what lies in the road ahead

Ooono Co-Driver

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If there’s a hazard in the road, like a pothole, a broken-down car, or maybe there’s an accident ahead, we often like to warn other road users. We might flash our lights as they pass to alert them and we’d hope they slow down.

This simple act of courtesy has now been distilled down into a gadget that rides along with you and feeds back simple audible alerts if another motorist has spotted something.

It’s called a Co-Driver, and it’s the invention of a company called Ooono (sorry spell-checker). It’s one of the most simple gadgets I’ve ever tested, but it could be one of the most useful bits of motoring tech out there.

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Physically speaking, it’s little more than a small button that sticks onto your dashboard, with lights and a beeper.

Tap the button to warn other road users of a hazard or speed camera

Let me explain how it works. You’re driving along and the dashboard-mounted Co-Driver beeps at you. This is a warning that something is ahead. You can distinguish exactly what it’s warning you about by configuring the alerts in the app, but this means a Co-Driver user has spotted a speed camera or a hazard and tapped on the device.

So picture the scene, you’re driving along the motorway and carelessly let your car wander over the speed limit. A camera is approaching in a few hundred yards but, thankfully, the Co-Driver knows, lets you know, and you’ve got time to slow down before you reach the camera.

When you get to whatever it is you’ve been warned about, you then confirm it’s still there by pressing the device. You don’t need to look at it, you don’t need to read anything, it’s all just done with beeps and flashes. It’s really clever.

If, as you come off the motorway, you notice somebody is changing a tyre on a bad bend, you can just tap on the Ooonco a couple of times and then the next user will know it’s time to take care when he or she approaches that spot.

The Co-Driver is very easy to mount in your car

It’s a really clever idea but, of course, it’s nothing new. This type of system is baked into the navigation app Waze, for example. What gives Ooono’s device the edge, however, is there’s no screen to distract you, and no touch-screen to aim precisely for. Just a subtle, physical button.

Does it work? I’ve been on some long journeys with the Co-Driver, including motorway jaunts and a blast around Snowdonia. And my evaluation so far is that it’s pretty good. In high-traffic areas, it’s very reliable, it’s only missed a few speed cameras and hazards.

In more rural, isolated parts, it’s not been quite as clever. And I guess that’s the hitch with a community-based system, the bigger the community is, the better it works. Ooono says there are five million users in 50 countries, but that’s still only 100,000 drivers per country as a vague average. There are times while using it it just feels like there aren’t quite enough in the UK yet.

But you can buy a Co-Driver for less than £50, so hopefully it’ll catch on in a big way fairly soon and then it has the potential to be something incredibly useful.

There’s other things I like about it too. The accompanying app, which you’ll need to set it up, lets you customise alerts and the way it functions, and it will also provide another level of detail for each alert, if you did want to have something to read.

Once the app is connected up, and as long as you’ve charged up your Co-Driver (the battery lasts ages and charges off USB-C) it will power up automatically as soon as you start driving. It’s all GPS-based.

The Co-Driver No2 (pictured) is a more polished version of the cheaper Co-Driver No1

There are two versions. I started off testing the Co-Driver number one, which works fine, but doesn’t have a rechargeable battery and misses out on a few new features.

Ooono has recently sent me their new Co-Driver No2, though, which launched this year. It not only looks a little sleeker, and has a better LED lighting ring, it also links up to a navigation system in the app. And this is the one to go for if you want a rechargeable battery.

There are other clever additions to the new device, such as a much better magnetic mounting system and the option to dismiss an alert if something’s not right, or the warning has expired.

The new one is more expensive. It’s £69.99 compared to £44.99, but it feels like Ooono has really taken on board what its users have suggested as improvements, and it’s just a more refined bit of kit. Definitely worth the extra money.

But is it worth having in the first place? We could take a very simplistic approach to that question and just point out how much it could save you if it helps to avoid a speed camera fine. Or, we could consider that it could save a life by warning you of a hazard looming.

And while it could be argued quite strongly that there should never be anything to replace driving carefully and within your limits at all times, we’re all human. We all make mistakes, and having a warning system like this is a great safety net. And I guess you can’t really put a price on safety.

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