The first few months — or years, really – of being a new driver can be a nerve-wracking experience for teens and, of course, their parents. Young drivers are still developing their skills, and likely to make mistakes not only related to how few road hours they’ve logged, but because their brains aren’t even fully developed – meaning they’re more likely to take risks – like gunning it to 70 in a 45. (Sorry, dad.)
Connected car technology platform Automatic hopes to help these young drivers develop better habits, and is launching a new program today called License+ that offers parents a toolset for encouraging and coaching their teens as they improve their driving skills.
The program basically repurposes Automatic’s technology and its accompanying mobile app for a new use case. The company, like competitors Dash, Zubie, Drive Pulse and many others, involves an OBD device that is plugged into a port on your car that communicates with your smartphone to log your trips, monitor engine health, detect crashes, and track your driving in real-time by offering audio alerts for things like speeding, rough braking and more.
The idea with this latter feature is that this sort of real-time feedback can make people drive better — similar to the way that the signs displaying your speed as you approach (flashing when you’re going too fast), can get drivers to become aware of their speed and slow down.
For adult users of Automatic’s product, the concept is a little bit about transitioning the “quantitative self” movement to the car. That is, helping users monitor their miles driven to complement their own self-analysis in other areas of their life — like using apps that count steps, sleep patterns, diet and more.
But for teen drivers, Automatic’s product and its real-time alerts could have a larger impact. While there are already a large number of tools to help parents monitor teen driving today, Automatic’s system — like some of the newer competitors on the market — is less about parents playing “Big Brother” to their kids, and more about helping parents and teens work together to establish a system of trust with regard to driving.
License+ is a 100-hour driving program that includes trip logging, plus feedback and recording of driving events like speeding (over 70 mph), hard braking and hard accelerations, all while calculating an overall “driving score” along the way. Parents can monitor these events via a web dashboard.
Meanwhile, teens can earn badges as they complete certain tasks and master skills, like driving 10 miles safely at night with your coach (a parent, typically), or going 50 miles with no hard brakes. At the end of the program, teens receive a bronze, silver or gold medal in the app.
Obviously the virtual rewards, like badges, can only go so far. But good parents know that such a tool could be used as the basis of a positive reinforcement system. For example, parents could tie the child’s allowance to their driving score, have some special reward tied to each badge, or could reward the child with something larger – like money toward a car of their own – for a successful completion of the program.
Teen drivers can also use Automatic’s other features, like those that help you remember where you parked, those that decode the “check engine” messages, and the OnStar-like “crash detection” feature that alerts authorities and family on your behalf in the event of an emergency. And on Android, Automatic can be configured to silence your phone’s alerts while you’re behind the wheel.
License+ is launching today on iPhone and Android. Automatic sells its OBD devices for $99.95, but doesn’t require a subscription.
For what it’s worth, the day my kid pulls out of the driveway in my car, I will not look as happy as the mom pictured in the photo above. But hopefully, by then, the car will drive itself.
Photography by Stian Rasmussen