App aims to cut smartphone-related traffic accidents by ‘bribing’ drivers with coffee

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An unusual partnership in Japan between an automaker, a communication company, and a food and beverage provider, has launched an app-based initiative that aims to reduce distracted driving crashes using coffee as an incentive.

For 13 consecutive years, Aichi Prefecture (province) has had the highest rate of traffic fatalities in Japan. In 2015 alone, there were 44,369 traffic accidents that resulted in injuries or deaths. There were also 50,101 arrests involving the use of smartphones while driving, and the increase in violations of this nature has highlighted the distracted driving problem. The Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC), refreshment retailer Komeda Co Ltd, and the KDDI Corporation telecommunication’s group, has begun an initiative using a smartphone application called ‘Driving Barista’. The application is aimed at reducing the number of traffic accidents in Aichi Prefecture that are caused by drivers using their smartphones while driving.

Toyota, Komeda, and KDDI have started their own joint project in tandem with the Japanese government’s 2016 Autumn Traffic Safety Campaign (September 21-30). The companies will promote traffic safety in Aichi Prefecture through an educational initiative where participation is accessible for all, and can lead to a reduction in traffic accidents. The Driving Barista app can only be used within Aichi Prefecture. Using the gyro sensor to sense the tilt of the smartphone body, and the GPS to determine the distance driven, the application measures the distance the driver has driven while leaving the smartphone facedown. When the cumulative distance reaches 62 miles (100km) the first time, and every 124 miles (200km) thereafter, the driver can receive a coupon for a cup of blended or iced coffee at a Komeda Coffee Shop.

The smartphone must be in a horizontal position facedown to allow distance measurement. If it is held vertically in a drink holder, it will not be considered facedown, and will not register mileage. According to one survey, approximately 60% of respondents said they use their smartphones while driving, with approximately half of these respondents keeping only one hand on the steering wheel. Therefore, the companies hope that the new application will raise drivers’ awareness about not using smartphones while driving.

The, also stated that, “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,” commented Akira Dobashi, director-in-charge of CSR and environment at KDDI. “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.”

With regards to the initiative, Toyota’s managing officer, Shuichi Murakami, said, “In line with contributing to the ultimate goal of achieving zero traffic fatalities and zero traffic accidents, Toyota has implemented automobile safety measures as one of its top priority management concerns. By carrying out a new traffic safety education initiative together with Komeda and KDDI, we hope to further reduce traffic accidents.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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