A Device That Alerts Your Phone When the Light Turns Green? It’s a Hoax With a Message

Just in time for Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Redlight Greenlight promises to help you squeeze the most screen time out of every second at the wheel. The Merkin Brothers

Texting while driving is universally recognized among people who are not idiots as a terrible, very dangerous, no good idea. Texting while driving but stopped at a red light is still a bad one, even though it’s technically legal in New York.

But what if you had another device to help you know when the light turned green while you were texting or Facebooking at a red light, so you could still do it—without the inevitable honks of annoyance behind you?

Enter Redlight Greenlight, a new gag product—complete with fake $1 million crowdfunding campaign and satirical ad. It portrays itself as a camera that sits on your dashboard, facing out the windshield, and sends a message to your smartphone when the light turns from red to green, so you can keep your face glued to the screen as much as humanly possible throughout any given day.

The pitch video makes its inane case beautifully:

A young woman, distracted by her phone, racks up honks from fed-up drivers behind her, and explains that cars were “invented over a century ago, when people texted each other by standing near one another and using their mouths.” All these years later, and cars still “aren’t designed for you to drive, and like your friend’s photo of an airplane wing.”

It comes complete with animations of automobile pioneer Henry Ford rolling over in his grave, and a promise that the device will also help distracted drivers recognize slow-moving pedestrians, like old women or—in its most tasteless moment—”transient roadblocks you may have missed,”—a.k.a homeless people pushing carts through the crosswalk against the light.

In short, it’s a worthy sendup of breathless fawning over tech innovations—a part of the zeitgeist that was always worthy of eye-rolling and is feeling increasingly passé as the dark sides of ubiquitous smartphone and social media usage occupy more and more space in the public consciousness.

It’s also the brainchild of The Merkin Brothers, the comedy collective behind a series of noteworthy spoof ads, like one for a non-existent Olive Garden Drive-Thru, and a fake Dell ad about an artist deeply committed to photographing geysers of dust created by people’s farts (The group claims one spot, Gay Taco Bell, even left the brand wondering if its own agency had made the video on spec).

While coverage of the Redlight Greenlight crowdfunding campaign began to bubble up at the end of last month, its source is previously unreported. The Merkin Brothers—comprising filmmakers Tom Banks, Mike Bernstein, Christian Heuer and Austyn Jeffs, whose resumes include work for the likes of Funny or Die and SNL—are revealing their role to sync up with Distracted Driving Awareness Month, says Jeffs.

So far, the crowdfunding campaign has raised $1,384 of its $1 million goal. That it’s all a joke will probably come as a disappointment to the one donor gunning for the project’s $500 (at 50 percent off) “Superhighway Investor” tier, which comes with a Rose Gold camera—though anyone who believed it in the first place probably deserves to part with their money.

@GabrielBeltrone gabriel.beltrone@gmail.com Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.