Thursday, 26 March 2015

‘Teenproof’ car problematic as hell

One of Chevrolet’s new cars has a ‘Teen Driver’ mode, which lets parents control and spy on how and where their children drive, as the BBC reports.

Parents who worry about handing over their car keys will be able to spy on their teenager's road skills and even set a speed limit soon.

They actually use the word “spy” like it’s a good thing.

The feature, available in the new 2016 Chevy Malibu, does things like mute the radio if the driver's not wearing a seat belt.

Perhaps it should be called Patronising Mode or Fucking Stupid Mode.

A key fob can also be used to set a speed limit between 40 and 75mph.

If they go over that, visual and audible warnings will be triggered to tell the driver to slow down.

I don’t have much of a problem with this from a privacy point of view, but Fucking Stupid Mode is definitely a good name for it.  If there’s anything likely to make me do something dangerous it’s someone – especially a computer – telling me to do something safe instead.  But you know it’s not going to end there.

The feature also allows parents to see a report of the total distance driven, maximum speed travelled, how many speed warnings were issued or if there were any driver road skids.

And here we are.  I’m not convinced that’s the best way to teach kids to drive safely.  Speaking only from myself, I’d definitely find a way to drive dangerously purely out of spite, one way or another.  I’ve never even particularly wanted to drive dangerously, but now I know what would make me want to. But I am not as other people.  Parents: if you don’t trust your kids to drive your car properly, guess what you can do. 

But again, we all know it won’t end there.  It’ll report where the teens took the car, as well.  Spying on children is a bad idea for reasons so obvious that I’m even now surprised to have to continually point them out, but in case the obvious reasons don’t convince you, there’s this: When I had recently passed my test I drove one friend to have an abortion and another to a place where he’d be safe from abuse.  If my parents had been able to track me, the implications for my friends would have been horrific.

But, of course, we also know it will not stop there.  The logical next step is for parents to have a kill switch if their kids take the car somewhere they don’t want it to be.  Which creates a whole set of new threats.

So where will it stop?  I can only say where it must stop: with children agreeing, if necessary, to data being collected as a condition of their driving the car, but with those same children having control over what data their parents can see. That’s a platform for negotiation. It’s also a platform that could help young people better understand the value of their privacy.

Amazingly, the BBC ends its article like this:

The new system has been criticised for not doing anything to stop drivers from using devices like mobile phones.

It’s going to take me a lifetime to even work out where to begin.

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