Free­dom with a slow key

Give your kids the keys to the car — with strings at­tached, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

EV­ERY par­ent’s worst night­mare — let­ting their chil­dren drive the fam­ily car — could be a thing of the past. Ford Aus­tralia has at its fin­ger­tips a ‘‘smart’’ ig­ni­tion key that can be pro­grammed to limit a car’s speed, stereo vol­ume and en­cour­age teenage driv­ers and pas­sen­gers to buckle up.

The MyKey sys­tem ef­fec­tively pre­vents hooning in the fam­ily sedan.

Ford spokes­woman Sinead McAlary says the sys­tem will even­tu­ally be adopted here.

MyKey is be­ing in­tro­duced on most Ford cars across North Amer­ica, in­clud­ing the Fo­cus, and Ford in Europe is also con­sid­er­ing in­tro­duc­ing in­tro­duce the sys­tem.

‘‘But it is not some­thing we’re looking at in the short term,’’ McAlary says.

The tech­nol­ogy al­lows par­ents to pro­gram a key that lim­its a car’s speed to 128km/h and the stereo to less than half the max­i­mum vol­ume. It pro­vides a low-fuel warn­ing alarm and leaves all the car’s safety fea­tures, like trac­tion con­trol, switched on while be­ing driven by a teenager.

McAlary recog­nises the tech­nol­ogy has great po­ten­tial and says there is a chance it will ar­rive via Europe, where Ford Aus­tralia sources its Fi­esta and some Fo­cus mod­els.

‘‘We are study­ing it but it’s early days,’’ she says.

‘‘A lot of it has to do with cal­i­bra­tion of the tech­nol­ogy,’’ she says.

When the MyKey is in­serted into the ig­ni­tion, the sys­tem reads a transpon­der chip in the key and iden­ti­fies the MyKey code, which en­ables cer­tain de­fault driv­ing modes.

Detroit-based safety plan­ning and strat­egy man­ager for Ford, Andy Sark­isian, says there is ‘‘plenty of ev­i­dence sup­port­ing the need for this tech­nol­ogy’’.

Sark­isian cites US Gov­ern­ment data that shows 58 per cent of young peo­ple aged be­tween 16 and 20 in­volved in fa­tal ac­ci­dents were un­buck­led.

‘‘For ex­am­ple, seat­belt us­age is the low­est among teenagers, yet seat­belts are the No.1 life-sav­ing de­vice in ac­ci­dents,’’ he says.

‘‘So, we are turn­ing up the Beltmin­der sys­tems an­noy­ance fac­tor a bit with MyKey.’’

Gen­eral Motors has a sim­i­lar sys­tem in its high-pow­ered Corvette sportscar, called a valet key, which re­duces the car’s per­for­mance.

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