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Smart car key helps keep junior in line on his big night out

Parents worried about teens' safety (not to mention the safety of everyone else on the road) when they take the new car for a spin will soon be able to control how fast the kids drive and how loudly they crank up the tunes. They will also be able to remotely nag  their young drivers to wear their seatbelts, all thanks to a new technology called MyKey that Ford Motor Company plans to introduce as standard equipment on its 2010 Focus coupe and, down the road, in its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models.

MyKey has a transponder chip that, once plugged into the ignition, allows car owners to program their car's computer. This includes setting the car's maximum speed limit as high as 80 miles per hour, and to issue warning chimes when the car's speed reaches 45, 55 or 65 miles per hour. Although a driver can still do a lot of damage at 80 miles per hour, and it exceeds most speed limits, this speed does allow for more maneuverability during highway driving (particularly if a driver needs to pass the car ahead). The MyKey can also program the car to chime a six-second seatbelt reminder every minute for five minutes and, after that, to mute the car stereo until the driver buckles up. Plus, MyKey can program the stereo to keep it down to no more than 40 percent of full volume.

Ford has obviously thought through the various problems that tend to trip up younger drivers: MyKey provides a low-fuel warning when the tank only has enough gas left to go another 75 miles (the typical warning  triggers at 50 miles), and it prevents the car's BLISTM (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross Traffic Alert (which uses radar to alert drivers when a car enters their blind spot and, when backing up, of nearby objects) and traction control from being turned off (which means no burning rubber when the light turns green).

Ford's market research indicates that MyKey will be a hit with parents of teen drivers. The technology might also be popular with teens, if it means that mom and dad will be more willing to hand over the keys to the family wheels (nearly two-thirds of the 249 teenage drivers polled said they would tolerate if it meant increased driving privileges). Fifty percent of those who said they would purchase a car with MyKey indicated they would be more likely to allow their kids to use the car with the technology in it.

More than 5,000 U.S. teens die each year in car crashes, the Associated Press reported today; the rate of crashes, fatal and nonfatal, per mile driven for 16-year-old drivers is almost 10 times the rate for drivers ages 30 to 59, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In addition to curbing some young drivers' bad habits, MyKey may have other benefits. A member of MotorTrend magazine's online community pointed out that the technology would also be a good way to keep lead-footed car mechanics (and valets!) from abusing your ride when it's entrusted into their care.

(Image courtesy of iStockphoto; Copyright: Hande Sengun)

 

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