AMG Academy

Optimistic 16-year-olds have no idea how absurd it is for them to ask most parents for a Mercedes when they get their license, but now parents can give it to them. Sort of. Instead of a car, they can give them a Mercedes-quality education at the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy.

Only 125 years after inventing the car, Mercedes has decided to start teaching people how to drive them. “The skills required to simply get a license do not fully prepare young drivers to meet the demands of the road,” noted Alexander Hobback, senior manager, Daimler AG. “Mercedes-Benz recognizes this issue and as a result is creating an educational program for the US that is based on the best teaching methods and tools available.”

The company first launched a similar program in the UK in 2009 and the 4,500 students who have participated so far have passed their licensing test at a rate of 79 percent, compared to the national average of just 43 percent.

A challenge in developing an American program is that it must cover the varying requirements of all 50 states, so the company is meeting with DMV representatives to ensure its curriculum meets those requirements.

Mercedes plans to release additional details in April, but for now there is no price information and the school’s location hasn’t been announced, though someplace convenient to MBUSA’s headquarters in the New York metro area seems a safe bet. Classes will start this fall.

Other manufacturers have offered teen safe driving programs meant to shore up kids’ defensive driving skills, but these schools typically do not fulfill states’ graduated licensing requirements for time behind the wheel. Mercedes’ program will do that, so graduates will be able to earn their licenses.

Families need not be Mercedes owners (yet surely the goal is to plant that seed in young drivers’ minds), so anyone can participate. While there are no specifics available yet on the curriculum, the company pledges that the teaching methods will “improve the effectiveness of the time spent in the classroom, online and behind the wheel,” according to spokesman Adam Paige. “The goal of the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy is to prepare students for today’s driving environment by going beyond basic car control skills and rote learning of traffic rules, and creating safer drivers.”

The company is also planning a public service outreach program that emphasizes safe driving and driver’s education. “As a company, we have a long history and continuous efforts to improve vehicle safety, so the Driving Academy is a natural extension of Mercedes-Benz’s desire to achieve accident-free driving,” said Hobback.

No word yet on whether the program, if it is based in New York, will include training on the interpretation of and appropriate responses the various hand gestures employed by Manhattan drivers and cabbies in specific.

Look for more details to come at the New York International Auto Show.

author photo

Dan Carney is a veteran auto industry observer who has written for, Motor Trend, AutoWeek, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Better Homes and Gardens and other publications. He has authored two books, "Dodge Viper" and "Honda S2000" and is a juror for the North American Car of the Year award. Carney covers the industry from the increasingly strategic location of Washington, D.C.

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