Ford MyKey system under investigation for Australia

Ford Motor Co. in the US has unveiled the second-generation of its MyKey technology, with the upgraded system designed to give parents even more control over their children’s driving behaviour.
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The first-generation MyKey system (pictured above) was launched in mid-2009 and is fitted standard to most of Ford’s North American vehicles.

The new MyKey allows parents to program any vehicle key through the MyFord Touch display. When the key is in the ignition, the system recognises the in-built transponder chip and identifies the MyKey settings specific to that key.

The new system will allow parents to block explicit satellite radio programs and limit the vehicle’s top speed to one of four preselected settings: 65mph (105km/h), 70mph (113km/h), 75mph (121km/h) or 80mph (129km/h). The current version of MyKey can only be limited to 80mph.

The radio screening system will block more than a dozen channels in the US that are currently labelled ‘explicit’ by Sirius Satellite Radio service.

Other features of MyKey include:

  • Persistent seat belt reminder with audio mute, which sounds chimes every minute, mutes the audio system and displays a “Buckle up to unmute radio” dashboard message until the front occupants’ seatbelts are fastened
  • Early low-fuel warning at 75 miles (121km) rather than the standard 50 miles (80km)
  • Permanent traction control, park assist and blind spot information system (the systems can never be disabled)
  • Speed alert chime at 45mph (72km/h), 55mph (89km/h) or 65mph (105km/h)
  • Audio volume limited to 44 percent of maximum

The new MyKey will debut as standard equipment in the Ford Taurus and Explorer in late-2011 before expanding to a range of Ford and Lincoln vehicles.

Ford Australia’s Neil McDonald confirmed the local arm was investigating the MyKey system for its potential in the Australia market.

“It’s something we’re studying, definitely,” Mr McDonald confirmed.

He said Ford Australia was examining what kind of vehicles the technology would be best suited to, and also when the MyKey system would be most relevant to be introduced into the market.

“It’s very hard to put a timeline on it,” he said.

Mr McDonald admitted the calibration of the system for Australian conditions was the biggest challenge faced by Ford Australia, although he suggested specific applications of MyKey were of particular interest locally.

“The lock-out speed range function from a safety perspective could be very desirable for families, certainly,” he said.

Ford US electrical and electronic systems engineering director, Graydon Reitz, said the system was designed to help parents encourage safe teenage driving habits.

“Ford wants to give parents peace of mind that their kids are following practical household rules in the car,” Mr Reitz said.“Parents obviously like this type of feature, and many teens are okay with it when they hear parents may give them the keys more often if the car comes with a technology such as Ford’s MyKey.”

A poll commissioned by Ford found that 85 percent of parents believed speed limiting was an important feature when their children were driving, while 60 percent agreed with the feature to block adult radio content.

Meanwhile, 45 percent of teens surveyed said they would approve of the restrictions if it meant they were more likely to be allowed to get behind the wheel more often.

“Like graduated licensing laws, MyKey helps parents set reasonable limits for teens as they’re building driving skills,” Mr Reitz said.

Of course, the system can do nothing to stop teens doing 65mph in a 30mph zone if they so choose.

Another interesting issue is: if you don’t think your teen is mature enough to listen to explicit radio content, then are they really mature enough to drive your car?