Attention valet drivers: Don’t get frisky with the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette -- big brother is watching.
General Motors is offering next year’s model of the famous sport coupe with a data recorder that captures video, audio and driving data from the vehicle when switched into a special “Valet Mode.”
The Vette’s owner can come back from dinner and check out if the valet was testing the sports car’s 3.8 second zero to 60 mph time. The car will have recorded data such as speed, engine RPM, which gears have been used and the highest level of g-force incurred on that joy ride to the parking garage.
“Think of it as a baby monitor for your car,” said Harlan Charles, Corvette product manager. “Anyone who has felt apprehension about handing over their keys will appreciate the peace of mind of knowing exactly what happened while their baby was out of sight.”
A video of driving hanky panky will be captured by a high-definition camera, which records the driver’s point-of-view through the windshield. Audio of any other hanky panky will be caught by a microphone in the cabin. It all can be viewed or heard instantly on the Corvette’s 8-inch color touchscreen when the car is parked, or downloaded to a computer.
The current version of the car has a junior version of the system where the owner activates the Valet Mode by entering a unique four-digit code. But it merely locks the storage bin behind the center stack display, the glove box and disables the radio and infotainment system. It doesn’t record vehicle data or capture video and audio.
The data options come as part of a performance data recorder and navigation system package that is a $1,795 add-on to the $53,995 base price of the Corvette.
This type of monitoring technology is still a novelty but will soon become commonplace, said Karl Brauer, an analyst for car pricing company Kelley Blue Book.
On Monday, federal transportation officials began drafting the regulations for cars to start communicating with other vehicles electronically. That will pave the way for 100% monitoring of all vehicle activity, Brauer said.
“Because the average Corvette buyer often deals with parking valets, this option makes sense in the near term,” Brauer said. “These owners are passionate about their vehicles and probably cringe every time they hand the keys off to a stranger.”
The data recording system was initially designed for weekend racers who took their Vettes to the track. It will allow them to record laps and improve driving skills.
“We soon realized the system could have many more applications, such as recording a scenic drive up Highway 101, or recording when the Valet Mode is activated,” Charles said.
The system was developed with Cosworth, the British motorsports-engineering company that supplies the Corvette Racing team’s data and telemetry systems. It has a SD-card slot in the glove box – which locks on Valet Mode -- for recording and transferring video and vehicle data. An 8-gigabyte card can record approximately 200 minutes of driving time.
GM says the system is a first. Other cars, such as the Chevrolet Impala and Silverado pickup truck, have the valet mode program that locks interior compartments and disables the radio, but they don’t have the data recording.
Other high-performance cars to offer a valet mode that greatly curbs a vehicle’s performance, but to have a full video record is unique, for now, Brauer said.