Big Daddy (and Mommy) Are Watching: The 2016 Malibu Offers Built-In Teen Safety

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Mar 23, 2015

As a parent of two young motorists, and a frequent writer on distracted driving, I have to welcome the Teen Driver option, which will be debuted with the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu at the New York International Auto Show next week.

A kinda-sorta disguised 2016 Chevy Malibu. The sheets come off at the New York Auto Show next week. (GM photo)The “blank slate” Malibu already looks interesting, with 300 pounds taken out thanks to lightweight high-strength steel, and increased rear legroom, thanks to four extra inches of wheelbase.

Parents get this report card. Kids get sent to their rooms. Or maybe a late-night pass for the weekend, if they're lucky. (GM photo)But the Malibu offers peace of mind to worried parents, too. The Teen Driver echoes Ford’s MyKey system, in place since 2008 (and already on six million cars). Among its features:

Hey, My Tunes! Teen Driver mutes the radio until the kids in the front seat buckle up.

A La Carte Safety. Parents can dial in infotainment volume restrictions, and similarly limit speed. The car then gives audio and video warnings when that speed is exceeded.

No Tweet Zone. A “do not disturb” feature prevents the driver’s paired cellphone from recieving text messages and incoming calls.  

Report Card. The teen driver’s stats are tallied, and parents get the straight dope on their maximum speeds, warnings that were issued, and incidents that turned on stability control, forward collision and braking alerts, or required the use of anti-lock brakes. Yes, there’s a Big Brother aspect to that.

GM and Ford have their own systems, which mirror aftermarket solutions that have been out there for a while. I wrote about Mobile Teen GPS, iGuardian Teen, PhoneGuard DriveSafe (with Justin Bieber as pitchman!) and Safe Driver back in 2011.

As for the Malibu's new system, I contacted Chevrolet and had this Q&A:

Can the system be turned off by the driver?
The system is only activated once the parent sets it up. They choose a four-digit code and it is paired to a specific key fob. (Car Talk Tip: Don't use the same one you have on your TV. Your teen definitely cracked that one years ago when she and her friends discovered all the good shows are on HBO.) After it is set up, the system settings can only be adjusted by using the four-digit code by the parent. Customers that don’t want to use Teen Driver do not have to. It is never defaulted ON. 

Is it hackable, so others might get access to the info about the teen driver?
Absolutely not, if a customer decides to activate Teen Driver, the data on the Report Card remains with the vehicle, can only be seen using the 4-digit code and can be deleted at any time by customers. [Car Talk Editor's note: A four digit code sounds like it could be hacked by a chimp in a few hours. Just saying.]

What percentage of drivers do you think will opt for the system? What’s it cost as an option?
Teen Driver is not a subscription-based service, and will be standard on the Premier trim and optional on LT models if equipped with the Convenience Package and up-level radio.

Car Talk folks have posted some thoughts on all of this.

No seat belts, no radio. (GM photo)George San Jose says:

First, who's going to let their teenagers drive the family's new car? The kids are gonna have to drive the older cars, the parents drive the new car. Eventually the car will age and be replaced and may become one the kids will drive, but by then the kids will likely have figured out how to hack the computer, posted the instructions on the Internet, so none of those reports will ever see the light of day."

And OK4450 adds:

"Double-edged sword to me. The info could be helpful to parents but also available to others. That could lead to issues of others (carmakers, insurance companies, police, etc.) delving into who went where at what time and why were they there, etc., etc."

And here's some video on the Teen Driver system:

What do you think about the system? Tell us what you think!


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