Food News

Japan Wants to Reward You for Safe Driving—with Coffee

October  3, 2016

At the end of last month, Toyota joined with Japanese coffee giant Komeda and telecommunications company KDDI Corporation to launch 'Driving Barista', a smartphone app that promises drivers Komeda cups of coffee, blended or iced, on one condition: They can't touch their phones for 100 kilometers (roughly 62 miles) while driving. (The reason for the 100 kilometer limit isn't immediately clear.)

The instructions are simple enough, and outlined in the video below. You open the app, tap the "SAFE DRIVE START" button, place your phone face down on a flat surface, and begin driving. By the time you hit the 100 kilometer mark, you're given a digital coupon you can later present to a Komeda barista. If you pick up the phone before your allotted time, you're presented with a FAILURE screen, and your progress is nullified.

The app only works in Japan's Aichi Prefecture, which, for the past thirteen years, has consistently had the highest incidence of traffic incidents in the nation. In 2015, 44,3691 accidents resulted in injuries; 213 resulted in deaths. The app release is running parallel to a larger governmental effort instated this year, entitled the Autumn Traffic Safety Campaign, to goad the prefecture's drivers to take more precautions. Driving Barista will be available for download until October 6th, though its adopters are free to use their drink vouchers until October 31st.

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Though Driving Barista is the first app of its kind in Japan, it's predated by other attempts across the world at introducing a rewards system for safe driving in the form of an app—look to JoyRyde and SafeDrive. Neither has partnered with a corporation of Komeda's magnitude stateside, though, nor have they attached coffee to it. Komeda has taken it upon themselves to participate in this venture because of the popularity of their coffee within the prefecture. "As a company that has been supported by the residents of Aichi Prefecture," a Komeda spokesman said, "We hope to help reduce the number of traffic accidents there through our participation as a provider of great coffee." This premise has obvious ingenuity; perhaps it'll solve a problem others haven't.

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Top Comment:
“The only thing I wonder is how if someone using the phone as GPS? Would that mean they need to have separate GPS for it to work? ”
— foofaraw

Think Driving Barista will work as an incentive? Why coffee? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • foofaraw
  • Lindsay-Jean Hard
    Lindsay-Jean Hard
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


foofaraw October 3, 2016
That's a start of a great idea! The only thing I wonder is how if someone using the phone as GPS? Would that mean they need to have separate GPS for it to work?
Lindsay-Jean H. October 4, 2016
It wouldn't be an issue in Japan, as basically every car has GPS, but I agree for it to work elsewhere there would have to be a way for the GPS to stay up on your phone, but then the app would limit you from texting or otherwise playing with your phone.
foofaraw October 4, 2016
Interesting, I never knew about existence of GPS in every cars in Japan. I always intentionally evade car with GPS when I buy car in US, because I assume the map will be updated much less often compared to google maps or waze. Is this not a problem for car's GPS in Japan?

I have been thinking about selective limitation that you said before writing the comment, but the problem with letting out permission for select apps would very much enlarge the gate of permission misuse with hack and all
Lindsay-Jean H. October 5, 2016
You know, I don't know how often they get updated, but in the two years we were living there, I never heard anyone complain about the systems getting out of date. We did opt for a Japanese GPS rather than an English one though because we heard the English ones weren't anywhere nearly as good.