Freedom with a slow key
Give your kids the keys to the car — with strings attached, writes NEIL McDONALD
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.