Kurt Verlin
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Toyota Launches Helpful New Car Seat App

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Toyota Car Seat App - menus and functions
Photo: Toyota

Child seats come in all shapes and sizes. According to Toyota, even its own engineers experience difficulty installing different child seats across different vehicles. So now, there’s an app for that.

Available on ToyotaOwners.com and as part of the Toyota Owners App, the new app is currently limited to car seat installation on the new 2021 Sienna minivan. However, the automaker says it is planning to expand the app to cover “other fleet vehicles over the next few years.”

Related: 2021 Toyota Sienna overview

How the car seat app works

While using the app, parents select their vehicle or enter the VIN before choosing the desired location of the child seat, the type of seat, and whether they want it to face the front or back. There’s also a “help-me-choose” guide that will help parents decide what type of seat they should use depending on their child’s weight and age.

Once all parameters are entered, the app plays a custom video detailing the installation of a generic child car seat in the specific position desired, with the specific installation method (via LATCH or seat belt). There are also written step-by-step instructions, and if the app will automatically flag any known incompatibilities as well as show additional steps, such as how to remove a headrest if necessary.

Related: How Toyota is working hard to go green

Why it was made

The story of how the app came to be is an interest one. Toyota engineers Jennifer Pelky and Lindsay Babian were having lunch at the company’s R&D facility when they began sharing their frustrating experiences with car seats.

“I designed the parts for securely attaching a car seat myself, yet there is still some confusion about proper car seat installation, which can become a real problem,” Babian said. “When Jen approached me with this, I saw the need for a solution. Now, parents, caregivers and grandparents who find it a challenge will have a tool to help them succeed.”

Pelky and Babian then enlisted Janelle Pharris, an advanced technology senior planner for Toyota, and the trio remotely developed the app as a passion project during the pandemic.

The potential benefits are substantial. According to the CDC, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among American children. The NHTSA has also found that properly-installed car seats and booster seats can reduce the risk of crash-related injuries by 70 and 45 percent, respectively, but that more than half of all car seats are incorrectly installed. Toyota’s new app could thus go a long way toward helping parents keep their children safe.