Ann Arbor-based Toyota engineers develop app to make car seat installation simpler and safer

Engineers at Toyota Motor North America's Ann Arbor research and development facility have created an app to ensure that every parent can install a car seat safely and accurately. Through Toyota for Families, a new digital toolkit on the Toyota Owners app or website, users can select their vehicle’s make and model to get detailed instructions and videos to install their specific car seat in their particular vehicle. 
Toyota principal engineers Jennifer Pelky and Lindsay Babian came up with the idea for Toyota for Families while jotting notes on a napkin over lunch in 2019. Their conversation about their own confusion installing car seats spawned the idea for the digital toolkit, which launched this March for the Toyota Sienna.
“If we are struggling to install the appropriate seats, then others are struggling too,” says Pelky, mother of two sons.
The duo enlisted Janelle Pharris, advanced technology senior planner for Toyota and mother of two sons, whose expertise includes previous work for Graco car seats and strollers. The three moms saw the project as a labor of love for their children and other parents like them. 
Toyota for Families users can select the car seat location they want and then enter the type of car seat they have: forward-facing, rear-facing, or booster seat. A “help-me-choose” guide can also be selected, based on the child’s age and weight.
“Parents don’t understand how tight the car seat needs to be or how to install it properly,” Pelky says. “This app can help.”
More information on Toyota for Families is available here.
Monica Hickson is a freelance writer currently based in Ypsilanti.  
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Pelky.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.