Austin’s Aceable Aims to Make Driver’s Ed Portable, More Fun
Driver’s ed is getting mobile.
That’s the idea behind Aceable, an Austin, TX, startup that makes an app on which teens and other soon-to-be drivers can take the required coursework for a driver’s license.
“Having these courses on an app is a far more interactive experience than on a browser,” says Blake Garrett, Aceable’s founder and CEO. “You don’t have to reload a page; it’s accessible in one click. This is similar to game apps that our users are comfortable with. We feature achievements within the app, leader boards, and other enriched features to help enhance the experience.”
So far, Aceable has about 30,000 customers for its driver’s ed app and, today, the startup launches its app for a defensive driving course, which has been in beta. The idea, Garrett says, is to replace the drudgery of these courses with the fun of a video game.
The new five-hour defensive driving course, which has been approved by the Texas Education Agency, includes 12 sections of state-mandated curriculum. Aceable hired writers to make the existing curriculum more engaging and mobile-friendly. By far the biggest challenge in creating the app, Garrett says, was working through an obtuse state approval process. “There’s not a ton of transparency in it, so it’s hard to know when [the app] could go to market,” he says.
The work, however, is worth it, he added. He estimates that about 600,000 people take defensive driving courses each year, with about 300,000 teens and adult drivers going through driver’s ed courses. (It’s not only traffic rules violators that take defensive driving. Many taxi and commercial and school bus drivers, for example, also must regularly take the courses to keep their licenses.)
Right now, Aceable says it is the only provider of an approved driver’s ed class on an iPhone app. (An Android version is coming soon, Garrett told me.) Aceable has priced its classes along the lines of current offerings, about $99 for driver’s ed, and $30 for defensive driving.
Aceable was founded in 2013 and has raised $1.1 million in seed funding. It has 12 employees. I first met Garrett last year at the South By Southwest Interactive festival where the startup was one of a couple dozen pitching at Capital Factory’s demo day. Capital Factory, a co-working space in downtown Austin run by Xconomist Joshua Baer, also incubates promising tech startups.
Aceable has plans to expand the driving education courses into other states and, eventually, get into what Garrett calls other “high-stakes” curriculum, such as worker safety programs and mandatory continuing education for lawyers or real estate agents. Only a handful of states currently have approved online driver’s education courses, and the rules regarding making them mobile-friendly are obtuse and difficult to navigate, he says.
Garrett says Aceable developed out of his own frustration with the courses he had to take to maintain his license as a certified public accountant. “I had to take hours and hours and it was miserable,” he says.