Since there have been teen drivers, there have been bad teen drivers. I counted myself among them, once “running over” a boulder while on a driving lesson with my mother at age 16.
If only Ellen Bogage had a car with a “nanny mode,” controls that allow parents to limit a vehicle’s velocity when their teen is driving, alert them to their car’s whereabouts and even provide seat belt warnings and radio volume controls.
Now, a go-kart, designed for 5- to 9-year-olds, has some of the same rudimentary “nanny” features that my dear mother would have clamored for when I seized freedom and jumped behind the wheel on my own.
The “Arrow Smart-Kart” from California-based Actev Motors is WiFi-enabled and, via an app, allows parents to set maximum speeds (though the go-kart tops out at 12 mph), geographic boundaries and to remotely stop the vehicle in its tracks.
The kart also has front-end collision avoidance technology, so children who don't use the brakes won’t ram themselves into the garage door. Want one? That’ll be $999.95, please.
Some of the kart’s safety capabilities are the same ones that big automakers are adding to their vehicles as value add-ons.
Ford in 2010 introduced “MyKey,” which gave parents speed, volume and seat belt controls. Chevy put a “Teen Driver” mode on its 2016 Malibus, which keeps teens from disabling certain features like traction control and park assist.
Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz have similar systems. There are car parental control apps that give parents report cards on teens’ driving behavior.
Nearly every major carmaker has models with collision avoidance systems, but not all of them come standard.
So the $22,000 Volkswagen Passat that does this:
A go-kart can do that as well. Go figure.
“Every day we see dozens of Google self-driving cars that go by our windows here,” Actev chief executive Dave Bell said over the phone from company headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. “There’s a lot of technology being developed there, but it’s not affordable yet. What we’re talking about is some of those same features, but starting from a completely different view point. Some of it is similar to cars, and we can do that.
“Being able to connect to a smartphone and the cloud, that’s something that’s really impressive, frankly, in this price range.”
Actev, launched in February, has backers in high places. It’s co-founder is Tony Fadell, who once led Apple’s iPod division and also founded Nest Labs, creator of the smart thermostat.
It’s a Silicon Valley tech start-up -- for kids. Bell said the company sees potential in gaming-based platforms. Think about an app that tracks lap times or laser tag (yes, LASER TAG) on go-karts.
Maybe Arrow’s users won’t always be children. The question Bell says he’s asked the most: When will he have a kart big enough for mom or dad?