Your Parents Just Became The NSA With This Car Manufacturer's Spying App

If Mom and Dad give you a new automobile, they may be tracking you everywhere. Is that a bad thing?

GM has a message for teenagers who want to drive its cars: even if your older sibling has left for college, Big Brother is still watching you.

That's because of Teen Driver, GM's new safety system, which allows parents to cap your speed, see where you've driven, set a maximum volume for the radio and even receive a "vehicle report card" when you've been driving dangerously.

Think of it like a V-chip for your car: Your parents get to set up a PIN that allows them to drive the car normally -- at whatever speed they want -- but you have to drive like you're on probation. The 2016 Chevy Malibu is the first car in GM's fleet to offer the Teen Driver option, and we got to see it in action at this year's New York International Auto Show.

Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

Automakers Showcase New Models At New York International Auto Show

While GM's not the first to use interventional tech in its cars, it's giving parents way more control over their teenagers' driving experience than previous systems. Before you decide whether to thwart your parents' purchase of a Teen Driver-equipped ride, here are the pros and cons of driving under constant surveillance.

Pro: You'll probably drive more safely

It's fun to drive fast, but when the car crash fatality rate for 16- to 19-year-olds is three times higher than it is for people over 20, your parents may be doing you a solid by slowing you down 'til you get better at driving. You can't blame them for wanting to keep you alive.

Also, you might as well get used to driver intervention. The entire industry is developing similar technologies that have the potential to be even more intrusive. According to John Hansen, the national manager of advanced technology at Toyota, "There's even a sensor that can tell if someone opens a beer can in the backseat."

Con: Overbearing parents can now be even more overbearing


If your folks are already judgy and nosey, Teen Driver will help them to double down on their annoying ways. It sucks enough when they harangue you about hanging out with certain friends or love interests, but it'll suck that much worse when they can point to how many times you've driven to that person's house.

Pro: You can turn your good driving into a bargaining chip

Parents can see a record of how many times antilock brakes and the forward-collision alert were engaged. The idea is that the more times they're engaged, the more dangerously you've been driving. So, try to at least get them to tie a good driving track record to some bonuses. If you prove to be a responsible driver, maybe they'll push back your curfew or help you rent a limo for prom.

Point is, if they're going to fence you in, you can always try to negotiate a better deal. They might say "no" the first time, but if you keep up the good driving -- and have proof -- you can keep hitting them up until they bend a bit.

Con: Data collected might be usable in court

There are plenty of parents out there who live by the rule, "No one punishes my kid but me." If you break their rules, they'll bring down their wrath on you, but if the cops come knocking, they're going to try to protect you as best they can.

Problem is, if you get in an accident or some other legal trouble involving your car, that driving data your parents collect on you might have to be turned over to law enforcement, if it aids their investigation.

We're not saying you should be allowed to get away with crimes, but if you make your parents realize they might not be the only authority figures able to use your driving data against you, they might think twice about using it in the first place.

Toss-up: There are workarounds


You might see this as a "pro," but your parents will definitely see it as a "con." Certain aspects of Teen Driver are easy to fool, especially if your parents become over-reliant on it.

It's the same as the sleepover trick in which you say you're staying at a friend's house, then you actually go to the place you weren't allowed to go. In this case, you drive over to a friend's house and leave your car there, then you ride in your friend's used unmonitored '99 Camry to your forbidden destination. The next day you drive home, and your parents see that you took a short, wholesome trip to Bobby's house.

Will other companies follow suit? Some, like Toyota, are still in the development phase and want to see how GM's experiment goes. Others, like Subaru, aren't even thinking about it. As Subaru's national communications manager Dominick Infante tells MTV News, "We're just going to keep focusing on making our cars safer. We build our cars in Japan, and Japanese teenagers are better behaved than American teenagers, anyway."

Latest News