With more coupons available in digital form these days, everyone seems to want to get you to use your phone to redeem coupons.

But what if you could get coupons for not using your phone?

That’s the idea behind a new system being tested by the world’s largest automaker. The more you refrain from checking your phone, the more coupons you can earn.

Toyota has introduced a new smartphone app called “Driving Barista”. It aims to get drivers to give up their propensity for distracted driving, by appealing to their affinity for coffee – and coupons.

The app uses your phone’s GPS to determine your rate of speed and deduce when you’re driving. And it uses your phone’s gyro sensor to determine the phone’s position. If the phone is face down, where you can’t see it as you drive, the app’s meter starts running. If you go 60 miles without picking up or changing the position of your phone, you get rewarded with a coupon for a free cup of coffee at a local coffee shop. If you go another 120 miles, you get another.


If you live in Japan, that is. So far, the app and the coupons are only available in Toyota’s home country – specifically, Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, which has had the country’s highest rate of traffic fatalities for each of the past 13 years in a row. Last year alone, police say there were more than 44,000 traffic accidents that resulted in injuries or deaths. In addition, police made more than 50,000 arrests for violations involving the use of smartphones while driving.

“We developed the Driving Barista smartphone application as a fun way to help prevent traffic accidents,” said Akira Dobashi of KDDI Corporation, a Japanese telecommunications operator that’s partnered with Toyota on the project. “We hope to contribute to accident prevention by providing a new experience for drivers.”

The goal is to give away a maximum of 150,000 cups of coffee before the current campaign winds down at the end of October.

There’s no word yet on whether Toyota plans to introduce the app in the U.S., where drivers also like coupons, and coffee, and fiddling with their phones as they barrel down the highway. For now, Driving Barista is Toyota’s way of participating in Aichi Prefecture’s curiously-named, modestly-ambitious safety campaign, “Aichi: No Longer the Worst”. Could coupons for coffee be just what it takes to help local drivers become, say, the second-worst drivers in the country instead?

That’s the hope. With 150,000 free cups of coffee in their systems, they’ll certainly be the most caffeinated. And if the idea works, saving money on all of that coffee could turn out to be just a bonus – for an app that could end up saving lives.

Image source: KDDI

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