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Ford Offers Teen-Safety Electronics

Ford is introducing a new technology that allows parents to limit a car’s maximum speed for teen drivers.

The company will offer next year technology 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 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.”

Ford announced in August the creation 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.