Toyota's Safe-driving App Relies on Embarrassing Teenagers

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
toyota s safe driving app relies on embarrassing teenagers

Teen drivers have the highest crash rate of any demographic. Younger drivers are most likely to use their phones while driving or speed in high-traffic areas, and roughly half of all accidents associated with younger drivers were single-vehicle crashes. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among individuals under 20.

Keeping younger drivers safe is a major concern for institutions like the National Safety Council, but some automakers have their own initiatives. Toyota, for example, had TeenDrive365, which provided a series of online videos aimed at encouraging safer driving habits. While the automaker abandoned that program after 2014, resulting in all of its content mysteriously vanishing, Toyota still seems keen on keeping young motorists on the road and out of the morgue.

However, what’s the best way to encourage responsible driving? Teens don’t like being placated, and they probably know the laws better than older drivers (as they’ve passed their written test far more recently). With this in mind, Toyota thinks humiliation may be the key. The automaker has made mortifying easily embarrassed teens the central theme of its new safety app.

Partnering with Saatchi & Saatchi London, Toyota designed its Safe and Sound app to monitor the activities of new drivers and intrude when they mess up by playing the parent’s totally uncool music playlist. While this isn’t much of a punishment if you have hip parents or aren’t awkwardly self-conscious, it should work as prescribed for the average teenager.

Showcased in AdWeek, the app requires all members of the family to download the app and (if they want the audio deterrent) link it to their Spotify accounts. When a teen asks to borrow a parent’s car, parents click a button and the app uses the Google Maps API to track how fast the driver is going. Once it senses that the vehicle is moving faster than 9 mph, it automatically flips into a “do not disturb” setting, blocking all incoming calls and social media notifications.

If the young driver is caught speeding or the phone signals that it’s being handled, the music selection swaps from Odd Future or One Direction to Steely Dan, Michael Jackson, or The Human League — depending on the coolness of the adults.

One obvious loophole to this safety app is the existence of the volume knob. There also isn’t anything stopping a teen from deactivating the application. However, if that occurs, one would hope the concerned parents suspend their child’s driving privileges until they’re willing to play ball.

Helicopter parenting is definitely a blight on society, but trying to keep teens from crashing is something worth exerting some extra effort over — even if it just results in less apprehension. Saatchi & Saatchi claims 74 percent of parents are more concerned about their kids getting into a car accident than getting into drugs or crime. This makes sense, as doing drugs and petty vandalism are both a lot more fun than dying in a car accident.

“Tell teenagers to turn their phone off in a cinema and they will — tell them to turn it off in a dangerous situation, like driving a car, and they won’t. Go figure,” said Jason Mendes, executive creative director of Global brands at Saatchi & Saatchi. “However, for teenagers, the threat of embarrassment is far more severe than the threat of injury — that insight we thought was a powerful platform to create something that would cut through, make a difference and ultimately continue the conversation around safety.”

The automaker says the app is currently Android-only and will expand globally after its European launch.

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4 of 28 comments
  • Rasputin Rasputin on Aug 21, 2017

    I believe Darwin will sort out the idiots. That includes any passengers stupid enough to go along stupid driving and not demand to let out of the car. When my daughter was a teenager in the mid-00's she knew she could call me at any time to come pick her up, for any reason. She did twice related to driving, once refusing to get back in a car and once demanding to be let out mid-destination. Vehicle selection is also critical. Bought a 10-year-old Miata for my daughter. Only one passenger. 4-cylinder. Nimble to avoid problems. And most importantly an MT. The actual act of *driving* doesn't allow free time to fiddle with social media, etc. Then there is parental driving education. Unfortunately, most parents of current teenagers were never properly educated themselves. You could make every car a Faraday Cage and most drivers on the road today would still be terrible.

    • JimZ JimZ on Aug 21, 2017

      "I believe Darwin will sort out the idiots." that's great and all, except the idiots in these cases often take innocent people with them. like the s**t-head kids I saw once who took to sailing through red lights at intersections laughing their heads off.

  • Garrett Garrett on Aug 21, 2017

    The problem is, cars are way too safe. When you don't have antilock brakes or an airbag, you drive differently. A contributing factor is that people who don't enjoy driving will look to do other things while behind the wheel. I love driving, so it's not a temptation for me. To prepare my son to be a responsible driver, I will raise him on a steady diet of the Dukes of Hazzard, Smokey and the Bandit, and Cannonball Run.

    • Hydromatic Hydromatic on Aug 22, 2017

      I'm wondering if we can just have them watch those brutal Australian motoring PSAs. You know, the ones with the hyper-realistic crashes.

  • Abrar Very easy and understanding explanation about brake paint
  • MaintenanceCosts We need cheaper batteries. This is a difficult proposition at $50k base/$60k as tested but would be pretty compelling at $40k base/$50k as tested.
  • Scott ?Wonder what Toyota will be using when they enter the market?
  • Fred The bigger issue is what happens to the other systems as demand dwindles? Will thet convert or will they just just shut down?
  • Roger hopkins Why do they all have to be 4 door??? Why not a "cab & a half" and a bit longer box. This is just another station wagon of the 21st century. Maybe they should put fake woodgrain on the side lol...