Distracted, inexperienced, and reckless, it’s no secret that teens make terrible drivers: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death of 16- to 20-year-olds.
For generations, training teens to be safer drivers has been based on scare tactics: gory screenings of Red Asphalt and clunky drunk glasses to emulate the challenges of inebriated driving. But recently, automakers have begun taking a different approach: letting parents and onboard systems have greater control over how their teens drive.
For generations, training teens to be safer drivers has been based on scare tactics
Chevrolet will be introducing a safe driving incentive and monitoring program called Teen Driver in the 2016 Malibu, eventually rolling it out across the brand’s lineup. When engaged, Teen Driver silences the stereo system until both driver and passenger seatbelts are fastened, and automatically enables safety measures such as Stability Control, Traction Control, Forward Collision Braking, and Front Pedestrian Braking. Using a configurable PIN code, parents also have the ability to set a maximum stereo volume limit and set an over-speed warning alert anywhere from 40mph to 75mph — each time the driver exceeds that speed, the system pings an alarm and registers the infraction.
That data is then assembled into a “Report Card” that tells parents how far their teens drove, how many times the over-speed warning was triggered, as well as any stability control events, antilock braking events, forward collision alerts, and forward collision braking events. (If your teen keeps slamming on the brakes, for instance, he or she may not be driving very safely.)
In 2009, Ford launched a similar program called MyKey which also uses a buckle-up-for-tunes system and incorporates a speed limit cap, preventing drivers from exceeding a set speed. And the forthcoming third-party Truvolo system will let users track the speed, location, miles per gallon, and relative health of their vehicles remotely through an app.
We feel safer with computers overseeing our driving habits
Unlike MyKey, Teen Driver does not offer a hard speed limit cap that can’t be exceeded. “Not being able to overtake a vehicle at a certain speed, could […] pose a safety concern,” says Chad Lyons, Chevrolet’s communication manager. And unlike Truvolo, Teen Driver doesn’t send its report card to a mobile app. “The Report Card feature is by design accessible only within the vehicle,” says Lyons, “thus avoiding it having to be sent to the cloud or collected in any other way.” The Teen Driver system is tapped into the vehicle’s most critical systems — storing the Report Card onboard not only protects that information from a privacy standpoint, but short-circuits opportunities for vehicle hacking.
Each of these systems hinges on the same trend — increasingly, we feel safer with computers overseeing our driving habits. But until fully autonomous vehicles become commonplace, systems like Teen Driver and MyKey serve an important function, allowing parents to monitor and influence how their kids drive — whether teens like it or not.