From the Editor: Key to Safety

October 24, 2008
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It is amazing what options new automobiles now feature-or will soon feature. For example, Ford Motor Co. will roll out a new feature on 2010 models that can limit teen drivers to 80 mph by using a computer chip in the key.

Called MyKey, the feature also gives parents the option of programming their teen’s key to limit the volumes on the audio system to 44% of the maximum volume, as well as to sound continuous alerts if the driver doesn’t wear a seat belt. In addition, the Persistent Ford Beltminder with audio mute typically provides a six-second reminder chime every minute for five minutes. With MyKey, the Beltminder chime continues at the regular interval and the audio system is muted until the safety belt is buckled. A message to “Buckle Up to Unmute Radio” also appears on the instrument cluster.

If MyKey is in the ignition, additional features such as Park Aid and BLISTM (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross Traffic Alert cannot be deactivated, nor can the traction control system, which limits tire spin, be deactivated.

Jim Buczkowski, Ford’s director of electronic and electrical systems engineering, said, “Our message to parents is we are providing you some conditions to give your new drivers that may allow you to feel a little more comfortable in giving them the car more often.”

Buczkowski adds that through the use of software, Ford is building on top of already available features. The MyKey system uses off-the-shelf technology from within Ford, particularly the SecuriLock passive anti-theft system, to identify which keys are in the ignition and which driving mode to enable.

While I’m still years away from handing my children the keys, even though my two- and five-year-old have asked for them on more than one occasion, these additional features do provide some comfort to parents.

Ford said its market research shows that 75% of parents like the speed and audio limits, while 67% of teens oppose the limits.

While it’s no surprise that teens object to having their parents control their driving habits, the objections from teens drops by nearly half if it means getting the family car more often, according to Ford’s research.

MyKey will be launched as a standard feature on the 2010 Ford Focus coupe and will be offered on many other Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models.

If you have a teen driver, would you buy a Ford model equipped with MyKey for peace of mind? What other features would you like automakers to engineer into their vehicles? Share your comments with me at campbellg@bnpmedia.com.

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