Seth’s new car (you can help make it real)

So, the #1 cause of death among teenagers in the developed world is the car.

You can get hit by a car, but you're more likely to die driving a car or being a passenger in a car driven by a friend. Many boomers have teenagers or are about to. And boomers, as we know, intend to live forever, expect to have their families live forever, and are often happy to pay to ensure that this actually happens.

So, here's what we need: A car for teenagers.

It is, after all, a matter of life and death.

A car for teenagers is very different than a car for everyone else. The biggest reason is that a car for teenagers is rarely purchased by a teenager, so a third party (probably the parent) has a lot of leverage over what the car actually does.

So, what does a parent want?
Low powered
Great gas mileage (more cheap)

And a teenager?

Funky looking
Allows easy attachment/customization of side panels
Not embarrassing!

Requires breathalyzer test to start
Easy to set, hard to hack speed limiter
Constant GPS reporting via wimax or cellphone, allowing the owner of the car to see where it is
Location lock out, making it easy for the owner to set the range of the vehicle or the roads traveled

[bonus added later: locks out texting or cell phone calling when the car is moving]

All this technology is easy to sync by computer or phone

Lots of airbags
ID card key making it easy to charge the driver per use, treat different drivers differently, including usage time.

Obviously, this goes against everything that the US-Marlboro-Man-wild-west-transport-equals-freedom-equals-macho-equals-personal-responsibility meme that is at the heart of the US car market. So what? There are already plenty of cars that fit right into that mental model. Like a 1964.5 Mustang with original pony interior. Fine! If a 17 year old wants to buy one of those, she can.

But it's easy to imagine, isn't it, that boomers would buy 50,000 of these $20,000 cars every year? That's a billion dollars a year! So why don't we have one yet? I think it's because the worldview of Detroit and the rest of the car industry is very much about incremental improvement of technology combined with surface styling innovation, not about reinventing what people might discover that they very much want.

So, if you know someone in the car business, tell them I'm ready to order one in 2011. In purple.