November 2008

Control systems: The kids won't be burning rubber in this ride

Ford has introduced car keys that are parent programmable, and they can set limits on kids or whomever else they give the keys. Parents of teen drivers can set top speed, radio volume, and seat belt restrictions.

The Detroit News reported Ford Motor Co. unveiled "MyKey" in October. The technology will be a standard feature on the 2010 Ford Focus compact and will quickly become standard on many other Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles.

The fully configurable system allows concerned parents to program their children's keys from a menu of restrictions and enhanced alerts.

Those worried that their teens might use the family sedan to lay down a patch of rubber in front of the high school can prevent them from turning off the car's traction control system, making it all but impossible to spin the tires.

Those worried about their teens running out of gas can change the "Low Fuel" alert from 50 miles to 75 miles. Those worried about unauthorized trips can track how far their kids drive.

In addition to being able to limit the vehicle's top speed to 80 miles per hour, parents can use MyKey to alert their children if they exceed a lower speed as well. They can also prevent teens from deactivating other in-car safety systems, such as the back-up radar.

Each car can have up to eight keys, and parents can set different parameters for each one. That means older or safer teen drivers can have fewer restrictions. The car works normally when adults use their keys.

Teens have the lowest seatbelt usage rates of any demographic, a fact that helps make motor vehicle accidents the leading cause of death for young Americans ages 16-20, Ford said. That is why Ford paid special attention to the seatbelt minder. Not only does it provide the driver with "more insistent" reminders to buckle up when activated, but the car's stereo will not work until all the occupants buckle up. That is a sure way to get teens' attention.