Parental Controls Now Available in Cars

Teen girl driving

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Do you remember what it was like waiting to turn 16? If you had a later birthday than most people in your class, like I did, it seemed like an eternity. It felt like everyone I knew had not only gotten their permit, but moved on from chauffeuring their parents around and gotten their license. Every single after-school activity seemed to be predicated on car ownership. Friends within walking distance were forever scheduling events that were at least a 20-minute drive away. It wasn’t fair. I had waited long enough. I was ready to drive.

I’m old enough now to know I definitely wasn’t ready. Even when I finally turned 16, I probably wasn’t ready. Now when I see 16-year-olds behind the wheel, I don’t see someone on the precipice of adulthood; I see someone on the precipice of disaster. I see them as a large child piloting a speeding-two-ton harbinger of death.

This large child is also under the influence of some powerful hormones at all times, which come with a side effect of invincibility delusions. There’s nothing scarier than a teenager behind the wheel who just got called a chicken (ask Marty McFly).

Parents Want Control

And now there’s proof – as if you needed any – that I’m not alone in my teenageautomobiliaphobia. Eighty-four percent of parents in a recent Carnegie Mellon University of Engineering poll said they would like the idea of having parental controls in place in their cars.


When the researchers asked these parents what they thought of parental controls, they weren’t only asking them if they’d like to have Howard Stern blocked on Little Johnny’s radio. They were talking about controls on some of the very basic functions of the car: a hard speed limit, a curfew time, and limits on how many passengers can be in the car at one time.

Sixty-one percent even admitted they would like to be able to limit the car’s geographic travel range.

One response to such controls might be that they sound like the ultimate killjoy. After all, there is something very American about being able to hit the open road once you get your license. It’s sort of a rite of passage and a first step toward independence.

But interestingly, 81 percent of drivers aged 18-24 also agreed that parental controls would be a good idea.

2016 Chevy Malibu: The Nannymobile

Though the poll was performed at a school known for being a hotbed for self-driving car technology, these parental controls aren’t as far off as you might think. The 2016 Chevy Malibu features some semblance of the above described controls.

A special key fob – the one you’d give to your teen – tells the car not to allow the driver to turn off safety features such as traction control, parking assist, daytime running lights and blind spot monitoring. This means no more burnouts or changing lanes without checking the blind spot.

Parental Controls Here to Stay

Okay, so maybe no teens are going out and saying “Woohoo, my parents are finally off my back, time to turn off the parking assist!” But the car also has some sterner features, like muting the radio if the driver’s seatbelt isn’t buckled and setting off an annoying, audible warning if the driver surpasses a speed limit set by the parent.

Plus, when the teen comes home after a long drive of getting yelled at by the car, the parent can view a report of the total distance driven, maximum speed and how many times the car had to yell at the teen for going over the limit.

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