Q&A: In the Driver’s Seat with David Thawley

Over 4,000 exhibitors and 700 companies will unveil their gadgets at CES 2018, the world’s premiere consumer electronics convention. In recent years, auto technology companies have stepped up their presence at the show, with connected infotainment, electric vehicle technology, and self driving platforms taking the stage alongside the usual mix of tablets, computers and TVs.

This year at CES, Derive is set to unveil a new application for their vehicle upgrade technology called “Teen Driver,” a dongle that plugs into a vehicle’s diagnostic port (OBD-II) to easily customize its performance to deliver a safer ride for novice drivers. Its features include limiting the vehicle speed to specific speed limits, disabling texting while driving, and preventing the vehicle from starting if seatbelts aren’t fastened.

David Thawley, CEO at Derive, gives an inside look at the product and the inspiration behind its creation ahead of CES 2018.

Why was “Teen Driver” chosen as a proof of concept for Derive’s technology?

Derive’s technology has been available for over a decade, but originally was focused on addressing the needs of automotive enthusiasts and enterprise fleets. We were looking for ways to extend this technology to the mass market consumer, and landed on Teen Driver as a great fit.

According to the CDC, “motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. Teen drivers aged 16-19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.” When you dig deeper, you find out that speeding, unfastened seat belts, and texting while driving represent the lion’s share of teenage accidents; so we thought, “Hey, we can solve all three of these problems through our technology platform—let’s do it and save some lives.”

We were all once teen drivers; we know how important it is to have someone—something, like an intelligent vehicle—looking out for us while we learn discretion.

Were there any other applications that you considered?

Definitely. From a purely consumer angle, senior drivers have their own challenges, especially while driving at night or in unfamiliar locations. From the perspective of a broader B2B2C angle, there’s a great opportunity to optimize the driver, passenger, and company experience within car rental, rideshare, and ride hailing.

Derive works a lot with fleets. How has Derive's experience with fleets helped develop Teen Driver?

The technology for our consumer products has its roots in our experience with fleets. Fleet managers want to ensure their drivers are safely obeying speed limits and, as owners of P&Ls (profits and losses), are constantly looking for means to rein in fuel costs. Consumers want the same ability to upgrade their driving experiences, just at a more personalized level. We’ve worked closely with fleets of all sizes, from companies operating a handful of vehicles to fleets in the tens of thousands of vehicles, so we’re experts at adjusting the solution to fit specific needs.

What goal were you trying to achieve with Teen Driver? Do you feel like you got it right?

The goal of building this application was to expand our existing technology to new consumer segments in a meaningful and powerful way. We’re exploring applications with the Teen Driver product that bring us beyond what we’ve done with fleets, which is great! It’s a development tool for features that we can leverage across the board. We’re only getting started; there are plenty more applications to come.

Find us at CES! Our team will be at booth 42755 in the Sands Expo. We’re excited to tell you more.