What is Teen Driver Technology?

Jessica Shea Choksey | May 24, 2021

Since 2015, General Motors has been offering Teen Driver technology in its vehicles. Teen Driver is a free feature, a built-in system that coaches young drivers to develop safe habits when they are behind the steering wheel and produces a driving report card to parents following a teen’s use of the family car, truck, or SUV. 

According to the automaker, studies have shown that teen drivers are more prone to making unwise driving decisions such as not fastening seat belts, speeding, and playing loud music, resulting in distracted driving. Teen Driver helps mitigate those risk factors and allows parents to monitor their teen’s driving behaviors to teach and reinforce safe driving skills.

How Does Teen Driver Work?

Teen Driver Functions

Teen Driver offers several functionalities to elevate safety, starting with automatically muting the stereo or any other audio device until the driver buckles their seatbelt. Also ensuring seatbelt use, the Buckle-to-Drive feature prevents the driver from even shifting out of Park until it detects a fastened seatbelt. When the driver presses the brake, the driver will hear a warning chime and see a message on the driver information screen to remind them to buckle up.

Parental involvement is a big part of the Teen Driver system. Parents can set the maximum volume of the stereo system to what they would deem a reasonable level. And to prevent their teen from speeding, parents can set a speed warning between 40-75 mph. If the vehicle exceeds this speed, the system lets the teen driver know to slow down by way of visual and audible alerts. Parents can also set the vehicle’s top speed to 85 mph.

If the vehicle has active safety features or advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), Teen Driver will automatically turn these systems on and disengage the ability to turn them off. Depending on the model, this could include any or all of the following:

  • Antilock brakes
  • Traction control
  • Stability control
  • Daytime running lights
  • Automatic headlight control
  • Parking sensors
  • Forward-collision warning
  • Forward-pedestrian and automatic emergency braking
  • Lane-departure warning
  • Lane-keeping assistance
  • Blind-spot warning
  • Rear cross-traffic warning

Setting up the Teen Driver system is intuitive and straightforward. First, locate the Teen Driver menu in the infotainment system display. Then create a personal identification number (PIN) and register a corresponding key fob. From that point on, whenever the car starts using the registered key, the Teen Driver technology will automatically activate.

The Driving Report Card

Teen Driver Report Card

Aside from fostering a safer teen driving experience by minimizing distractions and limiting speeds, the Teen Driver system can record real-time vehicle data while in operation. It tracks and gathers information, including the distance traveled, maximum speed reached, the number of tailgating incidents, and even how many times the various active safety systems came into play.

This information then becomes available via an in-vehicle “report card” that allows parents to see potential trouble areas in their teen’s driving skills so they may address these concerns with proper coaching. This “report card” is also a motivator for teens to make good driving decisions a priority. Teen Driver’s proactive approach creates an opportunity for parents and teens to communicate, build trust, and make the driving experience as safe and worry-free as possible.

What Models Have Teen Driver?

The first General Motors model to get Teen Driver was the redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Malibu. Since then, GM has added Teen Driver to nearly all of its Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC models as standard equipment. It is free to use for the lifetime of the vehicle.

GM is not the only automaker to offer safe teen driving technologies. For example, Ford includes a standard MyKey system with functions that overlap with GM Teen Driver. Also, the connected services plans available for a wide range of modern vehicles, such as Kia’s UVO Link, typically provide features that help parents encourage their teenage drivers to drive responsibly.

Summary

Many parents worry when their child gets their license and can legally drive on their own. And for a good reason. The overall goal of GM’s Teen Driver technology is to provide a greater level of safety for teens and more peace of mind for parents. Although its intention is not to serve as a primary driving instructor, it provides essential tools to educate and counsel teen drivers on developing safe driving behaviors for years to come.

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