Cars get tech to monitor teen driving habits – USA TODAY
Teenagers, already saddled with worries about grades, soon will encounter cars that can issue their own “report cards” when it comes to driving skills.
Several companies, ranging from global automakers to technology start-ups, have introduced services that enable parents to track, influence or restrict the driving habits of their teenage children.
General Motors will go a step further later this year when it installs an optional system on certain 2016 Chevrolet Malibu models that will compile a touch-screen “report card” for parents that will blow a whistle if their kids’ speed or drive aggressively.
“The whole point is to help teens develop safe-driving habits,” Detroit-area GM engineer MaryAnn Beebe said in a recent interview while giving a demo of the new Teen Driver system.
The report card is visible only to parents via a personal identification number (PIN), and the data is not sent to GM servers. The data is housed in the vehicle itself.
Chevy’s new system will eventually be made a standard feature on all the brand’s vehicles, GM spokesman Chad Lyons said. For now it’s part of an optional upgrade to premium trim levels.
Ford’s MyKey service has been standard for consumer vehicles in 2013. Though it does not offer a report card, it allows parents to activate vehicle warnings for teens when they’re driving too fast, send reminders to buckle up and block calls on a paired smartphone, among other things.
“This is what most parents remind their kids every time they get behind the wheel: buckle up, turn the music down, slow down and leave the phone alone,” Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker says.
McLean, Va.-based start-up Urgent.ly last month introduced a service in its application that can send alerts to parents when their teen’s smartphone detects a car accident.
Collectively, the technologies reflect an effort to combat the scourge of teen deaths on American roadways.
U.S. teen drivers are three times more likely per mile driven to die in a car crash than drivers who are 20 or older, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Driving.
Beebe said she felt a personal motivation to improve teen safety.
“My kids aren’t driving age yet — I’m sure I’ll blink and that will happen,” she says. “As a parent that’s really scary to think that your young driver is three times more at risk.”
Chevy’s new Teen Driver system:
“It gives the teens the opportunity to prove to their parents that they’re driving safe, as well,” Beebe said.
GM’s system doesn’t push out alerts to parents, but Beebe said that’s a possibility in the future.
Urgent.ly co-founder Rick Robinson said the start-up’s new accident detection service delivers alerts to parents for free. The app also sends alerts to parents when teens request roadside assistance through the app.
“We’ve found this gives a great deal of peace of mind” to parents, Robinson said.
Other tech companies are selling GPS-enabled devices that plug into the dashboard and monitor teen driving. Consumer Reports said in a review in 2014 that three models “performed well”: MasTrack, MobiCoPilot and MOTOsafety.
The GM, Ford and Urgent.ly technologies do not currently offer the ability to track teens’ physical locations. But GM’s Beebe and Urgent.ly’s Robinson said their companies would consider offering such capability in the future.
There’s other functionality built into the systems, too. The Ford and GM systems can be set to limit the volume of music playing in the vehicle.
“So your teens will be able to hear past the age of 20,” Beebe joked.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.