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Japanese Driving App Incentivizes Putting Down Phone

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Phone use while driving.

Toyota’s new Driving Barista aims to prevent phone use while driving. Image courtesy Toyota.

Toyota has come up with a way to incentivize people in Japan’s Aichi prefecture to not use their phones while driving.

Andrew Krok sums it up in a CNET Road/Show article:

The biggest benefit of not using the phone while driving is, well, not dying in a crash. But in case that isn’t enough, a Japanese app called Driving Barista will hook you up with a free cup of joe for keeping the phone down.

Tracking App

Toyota teamed up with Komeda Co. Ltd. and KDDI Corp. to create the app, whose gyro sensor keeps track of whether or not the phone has been picked up while the car is moving. As Charlie Sorrel writes for Fast Company, you first need to launch the app and then place your phone face-down before driving.

The app tracks the miles you drive via GPS. After you have driven 62 miles (100 kilometers) without picking up your phone, you get a coupon for a free cup of coffee at a Komeda Coffee Shop. After that first cup, you will need to drive 124 miles (200 kilometers) for another free cup. But should you pick up your phone while driving, the count goes back to zero — you lose all the miles you’ve accumulated.

High Rate of Traffic Deaths

Toyota chose Aichi prefecture for this incentive because it has had the highest rate of traffic deaths in Japan for 13 years, Sorrel writes. According to Toyota, in 2015 there were 44,369 vehicle accidents that resulted in injuries or deaths, and there were 50,101 arrests involving using smartphones while driving. Sorrel writes, “Perhaps the most amazing fact for U.S. citizens and Europeans is that anybody was arrested at all for using their phones while driving.” The safety campaign slogan for the Aichi prefecture is: “AICHI: No Longer the Worst.”

The app is a free download for iOS and Android,  so even if you don’t live in Japan’s Aichi prefecture, you are free to download it to check it out. It remains to be seen whether a version of the app will be released in the United States.

Akira Dobashi, director-in-charge of CSR and Environment at KDDI, said:

We have already been carrying out educational activities to prevent the use of smartphones while driving, and we hope that this initiative between the three companies will help solve the problem facing Aichi Prefecture. We developed the Driving Barista smartphone application as a fun way to help prevent traffic accidents. We hope to contribute to accident prevention by providing a new experience for drivers.

Killer Habit

The Colorado Department of Transportation writes on its Distracted Driving web page that using a cell phone while driving is a “killer habit.” Many people who know better still do it. Distracted driving crashes are most likely under-reported, because there is no easy test to detect it, such as a breathalyzer for drunk driving.

In 2015, there were 15,574 distracted driving crashes in Colorado, in which 68 people lost their lives. These distracted driving deaths accounted for  13 percent of all traffic deaths in the state in 2015.

Sam Cole, CDOT’s communications manager, commented on Driving Barista:

What a clever campaign this is. It rewards safe driving behavior and and brings attention to traffic safety overall. Good driving behavior needs to be normalized and recognized. This certainly helps do that.

What’s Your Idea?

What kind of incentives would keep you from using your smartphone while you drive? Would this app work for you if it were introduced here in Colorado? Let us know in the comments.


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