Tech featured at Detroit auto show lets parents monitor teen drivers

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DETROIT — What if you could be in the car with your teen driver, without actually being in the car?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 16 to 20-year-olds, and more automakers are starting to offer tech features aimed at parents worried about their kids being behind the wheel.

Chevrolet is offering a new feature in its 2016 Malibu sedan, dubbed 'Teen Driver.'  It's a safe driving incentive and monitoring program the automaker says will eventually be available across the lineup. It allows parents to preset speed limits or keep the radio from turning on until all seatbelts are fastened, among other options.

After each ride, the vehicle provides a digital 'report card' that can be viewed through the built in infotainment screen.

"It's technology in the form of some kind of a nanny, an electronic nanny," says Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor for Cars.com “It will tell them if the driver has triggered any of the safety systems like anti-lock brakes or has exceeded the speed limit.”

A prospective nightmare for some teens, Wiesenfelder joked, but quite possibly a dream for weary parents.

Hyundai is taking it a step further with a built-in system allowing parents the ability to use an online portal to monitor driving habits.  The automaker's 'BlueLink' system includes a speed notification feature, geographic parameters, or 'geofencing,' and a curfew alert.

If a teen driver breaks any of the rules, like speeding beyond the limits, parents can receive a notification email or text in real time.

“So if you want to give your teen an opportunity to have a job or drive to work that’s one thing, but if it seems like they’re going other places, you know about it,” Wiesenfelder said.

For years, automakers like Ford and General Motors have offered similar teen driver safeguards in vehicles, 'MyKey' and 'Family Link', respectively.

Whether it's the next phase in millennial child-rearing, or some helicopter parenting gone mad, Wiesnefelder says it's safe to expect more of these types of options will be made available in more new vehicles moving forward.

“We see a lot of technology thrown out there and they’re (automakers) throwing everything at the wall. These are actually some that might seem like they have some use.”

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