An Evaluation of a Prototype Safe Teen Car

Principal Investigator(s):

Michael Manser, Fmr Director, HumanFIRST, Mechanical Engineering


  • Craig Shankwitz, Fmr Director, Intelligent Veh. Lab, Mechanical Engineering

Project summary:

This project addresses the serious problem of high crash involvement rates suffered by teen drivers in the first few years of licensure. We will investigate which monitoring systems and functions are possible and appropriate as deterrents, evaluate them, and solicit feedback from stakeholders.

The focus is on vehicle-based feedback (such as speed warnings) and adaptation strategies (such as an infotainment system lockout) that can be implemented by vehicle manufacturers. This effort is in contrast to approaches that record, transmit, summarize, and report on driver performance. The intent is to devise a model system that is effective in improving teen driver behavior and is also appealing to parents, acceptable to teens, and does not engender unanticipated and undesirable behaviors. To accomplish this, the project consists of a three-staged approach by research team members, which include Westat and the ITS Institute. The first phase is to identify what vehicle subsystems can be implemented to address teen driver risk factors. We anticipate the need for subsystems that address speeding, seat-belt use, passenger presence, excessive maneuvers, contextual factors (e.g., weather), and distraction.

The second phase consists of evaluating potential Safe Teen Car subsystems. It is important to gain empirical evidence regarding how the presence and use of the Safe Teen Car options influence teen driver behaviors, so that manufacturers can determine the extent of their benefit and whether they should be installed in vehicles. We will examine teen driver behavior over time. When drivers learn and continue to use in-vehicle technologies (through the use of vehicle adaptations or subsystem feedback) their performance may change in both positive and negative ways. The research team will also examine how teen drivers and their parents subjectively view the Safe Teen Car and how 'usable' the system is, since those subsystems that form a good impression are more likely to be used and thus provide a positive benefit to teen drivers. This evaluation effort will be conducted as an on-road controlled study to better examine the true influence of the Safe Teen Car under normal driving conditions.

Finally, it is important to gain information from major stakeholders regarding the ability to manufacture the Safe Teen Car features, potential customer interest, and whether additional features are necessary. This last phase will consist of demonstrating the Safe Teen Car at a major stakeholder meeting that will be attended by industry representatives, including vehicle manufacturers, insurance companies, government regulators, safety organizations and licensing agencies.

Project details: