October 9, 2008 Ford Motor Company has announced a new safety feature to be added to its vehicles that will help parents encourage young drivers to be more responsible on the road. MyKey aims to promote safe driving, particularly amongst teens, by encouraging seat belt use, limiting speed and reducing distractions.
MyKey uses technology that allows owners to program a key that can limit the vehicle's top speed and audio volume. The technology also encourages safety-belt usage, improves fuel efficiency, provides earlier low-fuel warnings and provides sound chimes to alert drivers to their speed.
MyKey is based on an upgrade of existing technology; the SecuriLock passive anti-theft system. Some simple software upgrades were used to develop a new unique safety feature. The MyKey system allows the parent to program any key through the vehicle message center, which updates the SecuriLock system. When the MyKey is inserted into the ignition, the system reads the transponder chip in the key and immediately identifies the MyKey code, which enables certain default driving modes. Ford's Beltminder system typically provides a six-second reminder chime every minute for five minutes but with MyKey, the Beltminder chime continues at the regular interval and the audio system is muted until the safety belt is buckled. A message center display "Buckle Up to Unmute Radio" also appears on the instrument cluster. If MyKey is in the ignition, features such as Park Aid and BLISTM (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross Traffic Alert cannot be deactivated.
Additional MyKey features that can be programmed through the vehicle's message center setup menu include a limited top speed of 80 mph and limited audio volume to 44%of total volume. The speed alert chimes can be programmed to go off at 45, 55 and 65 miles per hour, while the low fueling warning sounds at 75 miles to empty rather than the industry standard of 50. Using MyKey to teach teens to avoid speeding can also help to improve fuel economy. Ford research shows that driving at 55 mph instead of 65 mph consumes 15% less fuel.
Ford’s new safety technology is appealing to parents of teen drivers, particularly considering that teens are more likely to take risks such as speeding – a contributing factor in 30 percent of all fatal crashes (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Teens also are less likely to wear safety belts than older drivers.
MyKey will be launched in 2009 as a standard feature on the 2010 Ford Focus coupe and will be offered on many other Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models. Ford is also helping teens drive more safely through its Driving Skills for Life program that helps young motorists master four critical driving skills: hazard recognition, vehicle handling, space management, and speed management. To date, more than 3,000 teens have participated in DSFL ride-and-drive events.