It’s being touted as “parental control” technology – a way for worried parents to keep tabs on their teenaged drivers. But what’s good for the proverbial goose (the 17-year-old) is just as good for the gander (his parents). And if recent precedents – and trends – are any guide, will be exactly that.
People never seem to see this coming.
Well, here it comes… again.
Both Ford and GM are in the process of fitting their latest models with technology that enables Mom or and Dad to track son and daughter’s movements, as well as how they move – and how fast they’re allowed to move. The car not only narcs them out, it supervises them in real time, limiting how fast they can drive, whether they’ve been wearing their saaaaaaaaafety belts and even how loud they’re allowed to crank the radio (Ford’s MyKey system).
GM’s system (TeenDriver) even spits out telemetry – a downloadable log of how fast the car was driven, how “aggressively” the driver accelerated (and braked) for the delectation (and, one assumes, discipline) of the parental units.
Even better, it detects – and record and transmits – “events” such as the engagement of the (increasingly de facto standard equipment in more and more new cars) “active” safety systems, such as Forward Collision Warning. Which – if you’ve had the chance to drive a new car so equipped – is so myopically and old lady-ish programmed that it become hysterical (flashing lights, loud buzzers) if you do not begin to brake frantically at least one astronomical unit prior to actually coming within physical range of (as an example) a car ahead of you turning off the road. Who will be long gone and off the road by the time you get there.
There is more such good stuff on deck, too.
Some of it is already here – and may be in the car you’ve got right now.
How about Lane Departure Warning? Which hits you with annoying (and yep, potentially distracting) beeps whenever the system thinks you’ve wandered into the opposing lane, via cameras that – supposedly – read and recognize the yellow and white lines painted on the road. Problem is, these systems aren’t as smart as advertised – and will beep just as annoyingly (and distractingly) when you make a perfectly legal pass or turn-off the road, which often entails entails crossing over a painted line.
I’ve also discovered that many new cars – which all have “drive by wire” controls which put the engine and transmission completely under the sway of the computer rather than you – will force-engage Park or Neutral if you try backing the car up with the door open (as to rely on your own eyes rather than the fish-eyed view of the now-mandatory back-up camera. Instead of being able to park right up against the garage door, you are forced to park a foot away.
Who out there can see the dots? Or maybe connect them?
One such is the real-time monitoring of the parental units by the insurance mafia, which I’ve written about several times previously. Progressive Insurance (see here) has been the chief pusher of this, but has been stymied – so far – by the fact that it requires the “client” (who is in much the same position as a “customer” of the DMV’s) to opt in. People may not have much choice about buying insurance, but they still have the option of choosing not to plug in the little tattler Progressive (and the other insurance “families”) really, really, want to make us all plug into our car’s OBD diagnostic port – so that every instance of what they define as “unsafe” driving will be used as the basis for jacking up the rates we have no real choice but to pay. (Even if we have never so much as scuffed a fender over decades of driving, it must be added.)
Keep in mind that this entails much more than dunning us for mere “speeding” – that is, driving faster than almost uniformly ridiculous posted maximums that everyone – even cops charged with enforcing them – ignores (like the Prohibition idiocy of the 1920s) without the sky falling down. If you accelerate quickly to merge with traffic or pass a dawdler – that will be taken as evidence of “aggressive” driving (rather than the safe/skillful driving it actually is).
And forget about spirited driving. This includes not only driving at a faster-than-Cloverific pace (see here for more on that) but also such things as attempting to make it up your driveway after a snowstorm. The traction control/ABS will register “wheel slip” as you use throttle and momentum to ascend the grade – which will be taken as indicative of an “aggressive event” and – ding! – up go your premiums. Execute a necessary evasive maneuver, such as swerving to avoid a deer or a Clover that just pulled out in front of you…accelerating (or braking) rapidly for the same purposes… anything that triggers an ABS or TCS “event” – and … ding!
Or rather, ka-ching!
Anything other than the most passive, slow-motion, herd-style “driving” – if it can be called that – is what they’re after. They want to extirpate initiative, drown any impulse to ever do anything other than get in line and – mooooo! – follow the bumper of the car ahead to wherever you’re headed.
And here’s the thing about systems like MyKey and TeenDriver: You will not be able to opt out.
MyKey is already standard in all new Fords. TeenDriver will be standard in “select” new GM vehicles, beginning with the 2016 Malibu. If you doubt this will be expanded to include all GM vehicles, god bless your innocence.
Hyundai-Kia includes “geo fencing” as part of the technology suite built into all its new cars. It does what it sounds like it does. It imposes an electronically limited radius of action; if the teen – and soon, perhaps, you – drive beyond that radius… well, don’t you want to be kept safe?
If there’s any upside to being middle aged today, it’s that it was so much better to have been a teenager yesterday. When driving meant freedom – the first real taste of it in a typical young person’s life. You got in the car and you were finally off the leash; could go where you wanted, how you wanted. Unsupervised,on your own; an adult – or something close to it, if only for a little while. Burnouts, beer – freedom. When we were out, we were no longer under anyone’s thumb.
Wasn’t it “dangerous”? Potentially, sure.
But life is to be lived – and learned from. To be restrained a priori from experiencing life, learning to exercise judgment and initiative – to earn wisdom from one’s mistakes – is to be kept in a kind of perpetual childhood state. Which implies, when you think about it, perpetual parenting.
No wonder a record high percentage of today’s teenagers and young twentysomethings don’t even want a driver’s license. I suspect a growing number of adults will be turning theirs in, too.
If you value independent media, please support independent media. We depend on you to keep the wheels turning!
Our donate button is here.
If you prefer to avoid PayPal, our mailing address is:
721 Hummingbird Lane SE
Copper Hill, VA 24079
PS: EPautos stickers are free to those who sign up for a $5 or more monthly recurring donation to support EPautos, or for a one-time donation of $10 or more. (Please be sure to tell us you want a sticker – and also, provide an address, so we know where to mail the thing!)