Even five-year-olds can get a taste of what driving is really like

There’s a perception these days that kids are more interested in their smartphones than driving. And yet driving courses for kids not old enough to hold a license are big business, especially in the U.K. Manufacturers like Ford, SEAT, Mercedes-Benz, and even Land Rover will let kids as young as 10 take the wheel to get a taste of what driving is about. Which will hopefully make them better prepared when they get out onto real roads.

But what about kids under 10 years old? There’s no real reason they shouldn’t be able to experience operating a vehicle. Young Driver, the U.K.’s biggest provider of driving courses for 10 to 17 year-olds, thought so. But a vehicle that five- to 10-year-olds could safely drive, and that accurately replicates a full-size car, couldn’t be found. So it has started building its own.

With the help of leading designers and suppliers, Young Driver Motor Cars devised the Firefly. It was first seen in prototype form at Gadget Show Live in the U.K. earlier this year and was a huge success, with 1,000 youngsters putting it through its paces. Development has continued since and the finished production model is ready to go on sale early in 2017.

Unlike the ride-on toys you might normally entrust a five-year old with, the Firefly is a properly engineered, miniature car. Power comes from two electric motors giving a top speed of 10 miles per hour (16 kilometers per hour), and the batteries can last for nine hours of continuous running. It has a fully independent suspension, hydraulic brakes, and forward and reverse gears. Adults up to six feet (180 centimetres) tall can fit in the adjustable driver’s seat, or ride on the passenger side. There’s full LED lighting, and a tablet-based instrument display.

There’s plenty of built-in safety features, too, including a five mph (eight km/h) speed limiter, an autonomous braking system, and remote shut down. It can even be spec'ed with a carbon fibre body and leather upholstery.

Firefly will be run at Young Driver events in the U.K. - a 20 minute session will cost around £20 (approx. $34 CAD) - and will also go on sale worldwide next year priced at £5,750 (approx. $9,900 CAD) plus taxes. I want one quite badly, and I don’t even have kids.

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