By on April 12, 2021

Last week, Lexus launched a viral marketing campaign — that also makes for an excellent public service announcement — about how stupid it is to check your phone while driving. But it has only just started getting the kind of attention it deserves, now that some of the contentious regulatory news has subsided.

The automaker modified a Lexus NX crossover with an electrochromic film that can totally obfuscate the glass for 4.6 seconds — which is the average length of time a person looks at their phone while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It then invited people to take the car for a “test drive” while it made a point about distracted driving. While an overt publicity stunt, it was rather effective and addresses one of our biggest concerns in terms of automotive safety. Lexus simply showcased a bunch of morons with phones in an interesting way, highlighted the danger, and then got off its podium.

There wasn’t even time taken to smugly suggest the brand’s advanced driving aids would help mitigate the risks of inattentive motoring, representing an uncommon amount of good taste within the industry.

The people in the video are another story, however. Most admitted to texting while driving in advance, outing themselves as human garbage. With smartphone integration and the speaker option, there’s really no reason a person would ever need to look down at their phone while driving. Texts can be handled when the trip is over and calls can be imitated during a stop. However, in lieu of advocating for more punitive driving laws, your author has come to embrace notifying habitually distracted motorists that they are idiots in the most self-satisfying ways available.

This was also the route Lexus took in the “Driving Disrupted” spot (below).

 

While the buzzword-reliant title wasn’t so great, seeing Lexus interview a series of chuckling people confessing they constantly look at their phones only to suddenly blind them for 4.6 seconds of seated terror felt genuinely rewarding. The only way it could have been improved was if a Lexus technician had to let them out of the NX and used the opportunity to sternly ask them if they still thought distracted driving was funny. Instead, the automaker kept the post-interview relatively friendly. But it seems that the people hired for the commercial/PSA learned the intended lesson without the extra prodding or even a follow-up blinding scare on the way out of the testing grounds.

Lexus also included a few scenes with the National Security Council’s Alex Epstein, who shared some data from the NHTSA. The organization has been getting increasingly conscious of distracted driving and, even though we’re not enthralled by all of its proposed solutions, it’s an excellent resource and estimates the number of U.S. road fatalities contributed by distracted driving is around 10 percent of our annual total. That’s over 3,000 people killed per year because someone refused to keep their eyes on the road, though some safety groups claim the figure is probably much higher.

Unfortunately, we don’t know how much this does other than build awareness of the problem. Automakers are still outfitting vehicles with tablets that demand quite a bit more of a driver’s attention than the basic radios equipped in older vehicles. There’s also reason to believe the industry wants to leverage the new technology for data-driven marketing opportunities that probably aren’t going to make people safer behind the wheel.

[Images: Lexus]

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38 Comments on “Lexus Makes a Point About Distracted Driving...”


  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    The specific name for the project is the Lexus NX 4.6…which got me excited because I thought Lexus had lost its everloving mind and shoved its 4.6-liter (as used in the GX 460 and prior-generation LS 460/L) into an NX as a one-off project. Kind of like how Nissan once put a GT-R powertrain in a Juke.

    Alas.

    All the same, this really illustrates the point about distracted driving and people think they’re paying a lot more attention than they are whilst on their phones.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Dear Lexus,

    Please stop interfering.

    Thanks,
    Charles Darwin.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    How about Lexus equip its vehicles with a clutch and gear shiter, so people learn how to drive and will not have time to distract themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      Putting three pedals in Lexus vehicles would be a gift to Acura and Infiniti.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Not really. Even if such a thing were to occur, it would simply be an option with a low take rate. Infiniti would continue to struggle and Acura would remain unchanged.

        Speaking of Acura, although it had its worst January since 2012 it has had the best March sales since 2005. Infiniti Jan/Feb are all time lows since 2005, but its March was about 300 units better than 2020 (which was the all time low).

        https://www.goodcarbadcar.net/acura-us-sales-figures/

        https://www.goodcarbadcar.net/infiniti-us-sales-figures/

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          If they did a 3 pedal ILX coupe they’d sell one. Sadly they probably wouldn’t sell many more so I doubt I’ll get the chance.

          The world needs a Civic for adults though.

      • 0 avatar

        “Putting three pedals in Lexus vehicles would be a gift to Acura and Infiniti.”

        Then put four pedals. I had Ford Taurus with three pedals – gas, break and parking brake.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Nice work. My ’15 GMC truck notifies me when I get a text and offers to read it to me if I want. I assume this feature is fairly common. However, it doesn’t have dictation capability.

    Thing is — revealing my age here — millennials seem much to prefer texting to actually speaking with someone on the phone. So, this is a big deal for them, not to be able text with their friends while driving. Why not just call ’em? Just about every vehicle has voice dialing these days.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Just about every vehicle has voice dialing these days.”

      I enjoy this and noticed I missed it slightly when driving my Pontiac over the weekend. Oh well.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike-NB2

      Agree, but it’s not just millennials. My wife, and many of her friends, who are all in their early 50s, live on their phones. Day and night. If we’re going somewhere and I’m driving her head is down the entire time. She got mad at me yesterday as I went over a broken patch of pavement and messed up her typing. She denies it, but it seems implausible to me that someone so addicted to her phone could leave it along if she gets a text while driving.

      Not entirely related, but it baffles me to see people with phone up to their ears when they are driving a vehicle with Bluetooth. Heck, I pair my phone in a rental car I’ll be using for a few hours.

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    1959 Esso Extra Put a tigger in your tank.
    2021 Lexus Don’t put Tigger behind the wheel.

  • avatar
    stuki

    There is such a thing as planning ahead…..

    I suppose ones ability to plan as much as 4.6 seconds ahead, is somewhat compromised in many traffic scenarios. But it’s not nonexistent. To be more realistic, Lexus should let the drivers choose when to do trigger the 4.6 second whiteout.

    While I’m no naif wrt the silly “self driving” hype, in a car with lane keep, radar cruise and autobreaking for cars, pedestrians and bikes (most Lexuses), it is possible to schedule a 4.6 second visual timeout (and that’s assuming no peripheral vision…) in relative safety, in some traffic scenarios.

  • avatar

    These people go to a closed course for a Lexus event, and they say drive this car around. We’re watching you with cameras.

    Couple of them *still* had their f-cking phone out during the drive.

    Furthermore, when they couldn’t see, it didn’t seem to me like they instantly jammed the brakes. They screamed and kept going?

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    The look of terror in their faces…….Priceless !

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      They were just told their iCrap couldn’t connect to the $2 touch screen awkwardly mounted to the dash.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      It’s sort of what I imagine the expression is on most Lexus drivers when confronted with challenges like:

      – getting onto the freeway
      – zipper merges
      – parallel parking
      – someone passing them on the right because they’re hogging the left lane
      – long lines at the Starbucks drive through

  • avatar
    relton

    If we, as a society, were serious abut reducing distracted driving whilst on the phone, we could immediately require that phones won’t work when traveling more tan 15 mph. A simple change. There’s an app you can download that does exactly that, but it should be a federal requirement. We regulate electronic equipment in lots of ways. This is not a stretch.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Good idea

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      What about passengers or people on buses and trains?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      OK, but that also means that when you see some obviously drunk idiot tooling down the freeway doing 95, or you spot that creeper van described in an Amber alert, you can’t call the cops.

      It also means that your phone can’t read directions off to you while you’re driving…so we go back to maps? Those aren’t distracting at all.

      I think there are valid reasons to have a working phone with you while you drive.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    That right there is awesome.

    [Let us note the irony of installing this feature on a vehicle where The Mother Of All C/D-Pillars blocks much of your rearward visibility for *every* second of every day that you drive it (check out the 0:18 mark in the video).]

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Yeah, this is a problem, and it can be dangerous as hell. My kid got rear-ended last fall by some dumba** teenager who was screwing around on her phone. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the idiot managed to total out my faithful old Buick. Well done, kid.

    I don’t have a problem with sending and receiving texts while you’re driving, as long as your face isn’t planted in your phone. Given the equipment in modern cars, there isn’t much excuse for doing this – if your car has Android Auto or Apple Car Play, you can receive and dictate texts verbally without looking at your phone, and doing so doesn’t take any longer than it would to change a radio station or change your HVAC settings.

    If you don’t have that equipment, you can also dictate texts and have them read to you using your smartwatch (which I do).

    This can all be done with minimal distraction.

    The bigger issue, I think, is that as we get more and more apps in our cars that have nothing to do with texting, the distractions will just get more severe. It’s one thing to get a text saying “hey, I’m on my way,” and another to run into a bus full of kids while you were trying to order sandwich from Panera with extra olives.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Something from Lexus worth watching!

    Unlike the dumba— IS500 ad that plays with every load of a page on this site, doesn’t load into the browser cache, and can even break through an ad blocker!

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      @sgeffe,

      • In AdBlock, select “Hide something on this page”

      • In AdBlockPlus, select “Block specific element on this website”

      It will stay hidden even after you clear cookies.

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