Chicago company's GPS device designed to track teenage drivers

March 30, 2012 4:22:09 PM PDT
In the crowded market for GPS tracking devices, a Chicago upstart is promising parents of teenage drivers peace of mind.

That's because their device is tamperproof -- and it can offer reports in real-time that monitor a young driver's speed, location and driving habits.

It is all in the name of safety and developing good driving habits ,according to those behind the iTeen365, a cellphone-like device implanted in a dashboard that transmits vehicle information to computers and smartphones.

"Teenagers drive a lot more cautiously when their parents are in the vehicle with them, or there is a driving instructor in the car with them," said CEO Joe McBreen. "They will drive correctly, within speed limits, so once they are aware they're being monitored they tend to drive more cautiously."

For $34.95 a month iTeen365 provides a website where a driver's performance can become the driving force for family discussion.

Where a youngster went, how fast they got there, and perhaps most importantly how many speed infringements they racked up is all there for analysis. How the data is used depends on parenting styles.

Lisa Wolf has a senior in high school and admits the device is for both of them. But this mother is convinced that, if it helps prevent the cost and heartache of tickets, accidents and court time, it is worth the perceived erosion of trust.

"It is not meant to be a bad situation," said Wolf. "It is meant to be an 'I love you' situation. We do this because we love you, and because we care, and we feel opening the dialogue is an educational process for both of us."

That is a perspective, though, that some teens don't value much -- at least not yet.

"I think it is a little too much," said Danny Gomez, an 18-year-old Lane Tech senior. "Kids need to learn on their own with driving."

"I think it is more an invasion of privacy than building good driving habits," said Nicholas Leyba, another 18-year-old senior at Lane Tech. "I think you should trust your teenager or your son or daughter on where they are going, and if not, then maybe they shouldn't be driving."

The company is offering the device for free if you sign up for a two-year subscription at $34.95 per month.

The idea came from the company's efforts in the fleet-tracking business.