SafeDriver Review part 1
What the system is, what it does, how
The keyfob sized
SafeDriver receiver tells you the maximum speed reached, the
distance driven, and the number of hard/sharp braking
events, allowing you to understand if the person driving
your car is driving carefully or not.
Part 1 of a two part series
on the Lemur SafeDriver system. See part 2 for a
report on using the
SafeDriver and trying to break its security and cheat on its
Here's a simple and low cost
device you can use to monitor how people you lend your car to
A tamper-revealing system
tracks the way the vehicle is driven, and you can see the
results on a keyfob sized unit any time you wish to check.
It isn't a 100% monitoring
solution, but neither is it a multi-hundred dollar device.
It is a quick, simple, easy to install and easy to use device
that gives a good basic level of understanding about how your
teenager (or anyone else) is driving.
It has a recommended retail
price of $69.95 and is available from
for $56.13. There are no ongoing monthly costs.
A great little gadget, either for
yourself or anyone else with teenage drivers.
An Explanatory Introduction
about OBDII and how the SafeDriver Works
All vehicles from 1996 (and
a few slightly earlier models) not only have a computer that
both controls and monitors many engine functions, but also are
required by law to have a standardized type of output port and
somewhat standard type of data stream, to make it possible for
external devices to connect to the car's computer and access the
data being monitored.
This standard port and data
stream is referred to as the On-Board Diagnostics 2 Standard (or
A growing number of devices
can connect to this data stream, which reports on dozens of
variables and which can also provide some hundreds of engine
fault codes (including descriptions to explain why the
mysterious 'check engine light' on your dashboard illuminates).
review of the ScanGauge II for more
information on the OBD-II capabilities in general, and how they
are cleverly reported on by the ScanGauge II unit.
The SafeDriver represents a
very clever adaptation of the capabilities of the OBD-II data,
by displaying three selected data measures, and by including a
temper-evident feature that makes it impossible for monitored
drivers to 'cheat the system' and avoid being monitored.
Lemur Vehicle Monitor Products
Lemur is a relatively new
company (founded in 2006) and based in Newfoundland, Canada.
They released a family of three different vehicle monitoring
products in 2010, all relying on a similar concept of a plug-in
sensor/transmitter that connects to your vehicle's OBD-II port
and a remote receiver in the style of a key fob.
In addition to the
SafeDriver unit, they offer a unit which monitors your speed and
gives an annoying beep if you're going too fast (AlertDriver),
and a unit which evaluates your driving in terms of fuel economy
and which also provides interesting 'gas cost per trip' data (EconoDriver).
Full details of their
product range can be found on
The Lemur SafeDriver - What You Get
The SafeDriver is packaged
in a shelf-hangar type blister pack that is moderately difficult
Inside the pack are two
units - one the vehicle sensor and the other the remote
receiver, and a two sided sheet of instructions.
The sensor/transmitter unit is a small
black box (quite literally - see the picture at the top of
the second page of this two
part review) that plugs into the vehicle's OBD II
port. It measures about 1.8" x 1" x 2.4" and takes the
power it needs to operate from the vehicle itself.
The remote/receiver is about
1.7" x 0.6" x 2.3" and weighs 1.2 oz (pictured at
the top of the article). It has a hole at the
top through which it is suggested you can thread your vehicle's
ignition key. The receiver unit has a large LCD display on
it and three bright red buttons. It is supplied complete
with a CR-2450 type battery. The manufacturer says the
battery lasts about a year; there is no 'low battery' indicator,
but the display dims and flickers when the battery is on its
last legs. Replacement batteries are inexpensive ($1 - $5
depending on source) and readily available.
The instructions are simple,
well written in good English and easy to read, but they make
more sense in terms of understanding if you actually follow
along with them and do the things they describe.
The unit comes complete with
a non-transferable one year limited warranty that requires you
to show original proof of purchase to quality.
Installing the SafeDriver
Installing the unit was very
simple and straightforward, and exactly as the instructions
anticipated and explained.
Perhaps the only small
challenge that some people might have is finding their OBD-II
port. In my case, it was exactly as shown in the
illustration in the instructions, and other cars I've looked at
have generally had an easy to locate port as well.
What does the port look
like? That is easy to answer. It looks like the
opposite/mate to the plug on the end of the SafeDriver's
sensor/transmitter unit. So just look to find a plug that
this can fit into (and remember that it will only fit in one way
- be sure to plug it in the right way around) and that is it.
There are no other connectors you're likely to find anywhere
around your driver's position area that would also fit the
When I first synchronized
the transmitter and receiver I got a fail message, but that too
was anticipated in the instructions, so I simply re-synchronized
(as they suggest) and the second time around, I received a Pass
message and all was well.
My guess is that the unit
tries to auto-sense the exact OBD-II protocol being used by the
vehicle, and if it gets it wrong the first time, you get the
fail, and so by trying a second time, the unit tries a different
protocol and succeeds. So there's no reason to be alarmed
at seeing a fail message the first time.
What the SafeDriver Monitors
The SafeDriver unit monitors
and displays three different data values on its fob/receiver.
The first value is 'maximum
speed reached'. This can be shown in your choice of miles
per hour or km/hr. It simply shows the highest speed
briefly reached since the unit was last reset, and takes this
value from the continually updated OBD-II data stream.
The second value shown is
'miles (kilometers) driven'. This shows the total miles
traveled since the unit was last reset. As such, it is the
same as the trip odometer in the vehicle, and again takes its
value direct from the OBD-II data stream.
The third value is a
calculated value intended to show the number of times the
vehicle has had a hard braking event since the last reset.
A hard braking event is defined as being any time the vehicle
slows down by 15 mph or more in two seconds or less, and the
unit calculates this by plotting the vehicle's ongoing speed
changes against a two second window of time.
The unit can also show two
other relevant values. The first is a 'Tamper' warning in
case your monitored driver has tried to cheat the system (eg by
disconnecting the sensor/transmitter, or by removing the battery
from the fob/receiver) and the second shows the number of times
the unit has been reset (again an indicator of possible
cheating, but because you also need to enter a passcode before
the unit will reset, it is unlikely someone will be able to
reset the unit.
The Validity of the SafeDriver
It is appropriate to prefix
these comments with the observation that the SafeDriver is not
intended to be a complete vehicle monitoring solution.
Very much more comples systems for vehicle logging and/or tracking
exist that offer very much more sophisticated monitoring.
But whereas these other
systems can cost hundreds of dollars to purchase, hundreds of
dollars more to install, and then run you up an ongoing monthly
bill of $30 - $50 for real-time monitoring, the SafeDriver costs
a mere $70 (or $56 through Amazon), can be installed yourself in
no more than a minute or two, and has no ongoing monthly costs.
So it is not appropriate to
compare the SafeDriver to these more sophisticated units.
Be aware they exist, should you be in a 'higher risk' scenario
and want to know, real-time, exactly where your vehicle is and
how fast it is traveling.
The prime use and purpose of
We see the value of
the SafeDriver primarily as a visible deterrent than as an
after-the-fact tell-tale. For example, a teenage driver
being pressured by his friends to drive faster could
(hopefully!) say 'Sorry, but my parents have installed a
SafeDriver, and if I go over the limit, they'll know about it
and ground me'.
And even if driving by
him/herself, the driver will be aware of the unit and so will be
more sensitive to driving safely and sanely. And surely
that is the ultimate objective of the system - not so much to
detect and report bad driving, but rather to encourage good
The validity of the data
With these initial comments
now out of the way, how useful is the data the SafeDriver
reports on, in terms of understanding how the vehicle is being
The first data point -
maximum speed reached - is of limited value. A driver who
roars down the 25 mph surface streets at 50 mph, then gets on
the 60 mph freeway and now drives sedately at the same 50 mph
will get back home with no indication that the 50 mph was not
only on the freeway but on the surface streets too.
Even if your teen is banned
from freeway driving, the chances are still that he may be
driving on some roads with a 15 mph school zone restriction
activated, on others with variously a 25, 30 or 35 mph limit,
and maybe on some with a 40 mph or 45 mph limit. Most teens will quickly realize that the SafeDriver
simply means that they can drive everywhere at speeds up to the
maximum speed that exists anywhere, even if some areas have much
slower limits, without drawing attention to themselves going
over the limit on the SafeDriver report.
The second of the
three data points being reported - total miles
traveled - can as easily be read off the vehicle's odometer.
This seems like a disappointing choice of data series for the
SafeDriver to report on, because it is conveniently available
for everyone to see in the vehicle already.
On the other hand, this
helps increase the unit's 'tamper-evident' nature. A
stealthy reset of the unit is more likely to be detected
immediately by observing an inconsistent value for miles
The third data point -
number of sudden brakings - is an interesting one. My
sense is that it is possible to do quite a bit of wild and crazy
driving, including a fair amount of heavy braking, without
triggering these alerts.
The 'trick' to avoid
triggering one of these alerts is not to drop more
than 15 mph at a time, and from driving around town in 'test'
mode I was surprised how seldom I could create moderately crazy
driving scenarios that required hard decelerations of more than
On the other hand, there
were a number of hard braking events that involved losing less
than 15 mph which went undetected - for example, a sudden
slamming on of the brakes to slow down when a police car
suddenly appeared and turned its radar gun on to measure my
speed! I guess I quickly dropped 10 mph or so but there
was no braking event triggered by the SafeDriver.
Other data series that might
also be useful
The unit makes a somewhat
fair approximation of reporting on sudden hard braking.
But it is totally silent on sudden hard accelerations. Why
not have it also report any time the gas pedal is more than 90%
depressed for more than a second or two? As best I can
dimly remember, my own very bad teenage driving was at least as
much full throttle acceleration as it was violent braking.
And rather than simply
testing for rolling two second periods with a 15 mph speed
reduction, might not testing a rolling one second period with a
7.5 mph speed reduction actually give a finer tuned set of
results? That would have detected many more of my own 'bad
How about adding an
accelerometer that could then report, in a single data display,
on rapid acceleration, rapid braking, and also - major bonus
here - hard cornering too. Accelerometers these days are
tiny and inexpensive, and a single report showing significant
acceleration/deceleration events either speeding up, slowing
down, or going round corners (excessive cornering speeds were
another common bad driving event in my youth) would be very relevant to
understanding the driving style in use.
But, after volunteering this
suggestions for a more sophisticated monitoring device, it is
fair to return back to my earlier comment. The SafeDriver
is not intended to be a complete comprehensive monitor of
everything, and if it were, it would probably overwhelm everyone
with too much data, and cost much more. It provides a
simple set of data points to give an approximation of driving
Part 1 of a two part series on
the Lemur SafeDriver system.
Please click on to part 2 for a
report on using the
SafeDriver and trying to break its security and cheat on its
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30 Aug 2010, last update
28 May 2011
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.