Toyota, the world's largest automaker with estimated sales of 10.6 million cars this year, released a mobile application that gives parents greater control over a teen driver's cell phone, the company's website said. The Toyota Safe & Sound app, created by ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi London, is intended to prevent distracted driving.
A parent and teen driver both need to download the app, which is only available for Android smartphones, and pair their phones wirelessly. After that, the parent uses the app to give a child permission to drive. The app detects when the car is moving and automatically puts a young driver's smartphone into a "do not disturb" mode that disables calls, messages and social media notifications.
The app also detects whether a driver is going over the speed limit or that the smartphone was picked up. At that point, the app stops their Spotify playlist and replaces it with their parents' favorite music. A humorous video promoting the app is available to view on Ad Age's Creativity page.
Toyota and Saatchi's effort to prevent distracted driving among teens, while done in good humor, also spreads an important message considering that about three-fourths of people killed in car accidents are 15 to 19 years old. All U.S. states have some form of law against smartphone usage while operating a vehicle, but an estimated 660,000 drivers use cell phones at any given time during the day, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. Distracted drivers were responsible for 3,477 deaths and 391,000 motor vehicle injuries in 2015, the most recent year with available data. Among the 2,521 teen deaths in a car crash, 11% were attributed to distracted driving.
The effort is the latest signal that automakers are taking on a more active role in promoting responsible driving in their marketing. Toyota's app comes a month after Mazda started experimenting with an immersive full-screen takeover ad on Facebook that warns against scrolling through a smartphone screen while driving. BBR Saatchi & Saatchi developed the "Distracted Driving" campaign that features the tagline "Don't Scroll and Drive." As a Facebook user scrolls through the app, a car suddenly skids down across the screen, followed by the sound of a crash as the screen appears to crack.
The Safe & Sound app is another way for Toyota to create a positive view of the brand, especially since the app is open to all car owners (though only Android phones). The carmaker makes efforts to be socially responsible while reaching out to the next generation of drivers (who likely will live in a world of self-driving cars and ride-hailing apps). Last month, Toyota released a mobile application that urged kids to learn how to invent and build new gadgets. Called Mobilmo, the app was developed with the Tokyo-based digital art collective teamLab, and let children use 3-D objects to build new machines, move them around in a virtual environment and share their inventions with other kids around the world.