To a child, a go-kart is a tantalising glimpse of their autonomous future — hands on the wheel, feet on the pedals, open road (or empty parking lot) ahead. I am seven years old and I'm driving a car. And yet, the noisy freedom afforded by a lawnmower-powered projectile may not necessarily jibe with the protective sensibilities of the modern parent. Well, fret not, helicopter mums and dads: there's an app for that — and a car to go with it. The Arrow Smart-Kart, from Silicon Valley-based Actev Motors, hits all the right buttons for speed-hungry kids, but gives nervous parents a few buttons of their own.
First, the car. The Arrow is electric, but this is no chugging Power Wheels Barbie Dream Car; Actev's $600 kart (designed for kids between the ages of 5 and 9) can hit a fairly brisk 12mph, and its synthesised engine sounds (downloadable from an online database and pumped out through speakers in the seat back) will triple that speed, at least in the mind of the driver. The standard car, which features a steel chassis and pneumatic rubber tyres, is handsomely minimalistic. Cough up another $100 to add some very sharp F1-style body work in silver or red. A fast charger is available for $50 and a double-capacity battery (good for 1 to 2 hours of driving) for $150. There's even a drift kit ($50) for true daredevils.
The Smart-Kart's real innovation is its parental-control app. Available for iOS or Android devices, the app — which connects to the car via WiFi — allows Mom to impose all manner of limitations on the fun. Park, reverse or drive can be selected remotely; vehicle speed can monitored in real time and toned down as required; and a GPS-integrated geo-fencing feature allows parents to set an uncrossable geographic perimeter. There's even a big red kill(joy) switch if things still manage to get out of hand. And the car itself has a pretty notable electronic nanny feature of its own: a collision avoidance system that drops the anchor if, say, little Billy is roaring headlong into a brick wall.
Post-race, the app reports some key telematics data, including total driving time, distance covered and maximum speed. Some time after deliveries of the car commence this summer, Actev plans to offer different body kits and a racing-style steering wheel, along with gamification goodies like distance-sensing ‘smart cones’ and laser tag sensors.
I wonder if I can download a lawnmower-engine sound.
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