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Gadget of the Week - Parental Controls for the Car

At this week’s auto show in New York City, Ford was demonstrating its MyKey teen-safety system that was first announced last Fall. The MyKey system is the first attempt by the auto manufacturers to allow parents to set up some safety reminders and also control how fast their teen can go while driving the family car.

Parents can activate the system using a master key or an Administrator Key as Ford calls it. By touching a set-up button, several options appear on a small display on the dash. Once the parent has made his selections, the MyKey – the key used by the teen – is updated wirelessly.

At the present time the parental options are fairly limited. As far as speed control goes, you can cap the top speed of the vehicle at 80 mph and also activate warning chimes as the car reaches 45, 55 and 65 mph. Interestingly, the MyKey system also targets the car’s sound system, allowing parents to restrict the volume to 44% of the maximum. Whether this is to reduce the distraction of loud music or save the system’s speakers, Ford doesn’t say!

Perhaps the smartest feature again involves the sound system. If the car pulls away without either the driver or a front seat passenger fastening their seat belts, then a warning system pings and the sound system mutes until the belts are applied. Ford obviously figures that buckling-up is a small price to pay to make sure they can access their favorite sounds!

The first version of MyKey will be introduced on the 2010 Ford Focus due out in August of this year. Ford expects the system to be standard on all Ford, Mercury and Lincoln models sometime next year.

It’s likely that MyKey and other teen-safety systems will evolve rapidly over the next few years. The MyKey options are limited (for instance, it would make more sense to allow parents to set the maximum speed based on location and driving experience) and lack all of the tracking options currently available with some web-based products. However, MyKey is definitely a step in the right direction.

And how would headstrong teens react to such restrictions on their driving options? In a Harris Interactive survey, 64% of teens said they would happily accept the system – if it meant they could borrow the family car more often!

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