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