Improving driving with technology

I’ve always thought that when my kids get to drive I want to buy some system to install in the car’s computer that will give me a readout of how they drove when I ask it. How fast they accelerated, revved the engine etc. I’ve been surprised not to see anything like this marketed as it shouldn’t cost much to produce – the computers are in the cars so you need a USB port to extract data from the car and some software development.

Anyway, something probably better is on the way. From the WSJ:

Mougin, 18 years old, has been participating in a University of Iowa study to see whether the device and the data it provides can help improve teen driving. The camera, attached to the rear-view mirror, has one lens facing the road and another aimed at the driver. It runs constantly, and slips into recording mode if, for example, the car accelerates rapidly or brakes suddenly. It then preserves about 10 seconds before and after the event that triggered it.

“You don’t want to set it off,” Mougin says. After 10 months of taking part in the study, he says, “I know I’m a safer driver.”

Starting Thursday, American Family Mutual Insurance Co., the nation’s 10th largest car insurer, will offer some of its customers the same system, known as DriveCam, in an effort to improve driving behavior among teens, a population that is particularly at risk on the roads. More teenagers die in car crashes than from any other single cause.

It’s all good.

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17 years ago

Well that’s nice but it you want a full picture of your car’s activities and if F1 racing is definitely used as a R&D ground for new car tech then what your proposing can be done with currently tech no problems. F1 teams have been monitoring their cars for years…

17 years ago

Nicholas, I agree with the need to ‘do something’ about teenagers wiping themselves out in cars and would like to suggest that boys not be allowed to get behind the wheel until they reach a more mature age, of say 25, which is about the time they reckon the brain stops maturing. I think given the statistics, we can afford to point the finger at which gender more regularly wipes themselves (and others) out in car accidents.

I’m glad you’re not my dad. How sneaky you are. Wouldn’t it be a better society if we could ask our children and expect them to give us honest answers, rather than having to monitor them with cameras and devices designed to catch them out? I have no children, but if I did have a son, you can be assured he would be so thoroughly brow-beaten as to be utterly convinced about not being a biggus dickus idiot behind the wheel and if I thought his temperament was such that he wouldn’t be able to help himself, then he wouldn’t be given the car keys or be allowed to drive alone until such time as he grew up.

Tony Healy
Tony Healy
17 years ago

Some transport fleets and car rental companies in the US have used car performance monitoring systems for a few years. They use it to try to enforce safe driving practices, especially to stop speeding. This has proven controversial when car rental companies levy extra charges for exceeding speed limits.

There are political sensitivities that constrain deployment in passenger fleets. Dangerous drivers and the groups that represent them fear the possibility of hard evidence becoming available to courts. Nevertheless, those groups will clearly lose this battle by 2010.

Also, insurance companies for several years have been experimenting with systems that track driving, so as to adjust premiums according to distance driven. As the cost of these systems fall, and environmentalists learn about them, these are also bound to become widespread. Currently, occasional drivers subsidise heavy drivers.

The good news is that dramatic improvements are on the way for driver assistance and even automation. There is a lot of work on systems that “look” at the road ahead and drive the car. Other work uses IR and ultrasound sensors to detect obstacles on the road ahead, which is valuable at night, especially to safeguard cyclists and walkers.

At the moment, we are in a window after the time when new devices have increased driver distraction and thus driving risk, but before follow-on devices dramatically improve safety.

17 years ago

That’s alright Link, you’ll be dandy…

until he gets too drunk with mates, takes one of their cars out for a spin and, not knowing what to do, becomes a statistic.

I prefer N Gruen’s approach. Personally my children, once old enough, will do defensive driving courses.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
17 years ago

I think this stuff is already around in car computers. A mate of mine had a Forrester GT and took in back for it’s first service and the mechanic told him when he picked it up to stop thrashing it and to follow the running in instructions or something like that. He could see peak revs etc on his diagnostic computer.