Ford Offers Teen-Safety Electronics

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Dearborn, Mich. — Following on the heels of its game-changing Sync car radio, Ford is introducing a new technology that allows parents to limit a car’s maximum speed for teen drivers, again beating autosound makers to the market with another new technology.

The company announced new technology yesterday that lets parents set the top speed for the car to 80 mph and set other teen-safety features, including a non-stop warning if teens do not buckle their seat belt. It can also limit the audio volume of the sound system and provide earlier low-fuel warnings.

The new MyKey feature was developed by the same group at Ford that produced the Sync audio system. MyKey relies on a chip within the vehicle’s key that may be programmed through the vehicle’s message center. When the MyKey is inserted into the ignition, the system identifies the code on the chip and switches to the teen driving mode.

Ford will debut MyKey next year as standard equipment on the 2010 Ford Focus and said it will quickly become a standard feature on other Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models.

TRG principal analyst Phil Magney said MyKey will not compete with current aftermarket car locators that are often aimed at parents of teens, but he said MyKey is another example of Ford innovating before the autosound aftermarket. “It’s a fairly shrewd move that needs to be recognized. Whether or not the aftermarket does something like this remains to be seen. This is an example where Ford, especially over the past year, seems to be a bit more creative in bringing some of the latest technology into the vehicle.” He added, “This is a kind of technology that might have originated in the aftermarket first.”

Directed Electronics, Audiovox, Blackline and SkyPatrol, makers of car locators, did not immediately respond to a TWICE inquiry. Car locators like the MyKey can protect teens by alerting parents when the teen drives over a certain speed, but they also allow parents to track the car’s position on the Internet and alert the parents if the car travels beyond a proscribed area.

Ford said teens are more likely to take risks while driving, such as speeding, which is a contributing factor in 30 percent of all fatal car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A Harris Interactive survey conducted for Ford found more than half of the parents surveyed worry that their teens are driving at unsafe speeds, talking on cellphones or texting while driving. More than a third are concerned that their teens do not always buckle their seat belts.

Ford announced in August the


of a 40-person group to explore new car technology, including bringing Internet to the car and expanding the Sync car audio system, which uses simple voice recognition to control iPods and cellphones that can attach to the Sync.


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