Parents will soon be able to programme their cars to curb their teenage children’s dangerous driving habits, when new technology from Ford hits the UK next year.
In an effort to improve road safety, Ford has come up with a device that will allow parents to control how their children behave behind the wheel.
Mums and dads will be able to set certain parameters, such as a top speed limit and stereo volume.
Statistically, young drivers are more likely to be involved in a road crash than other age groups, according to road safety charity Brake.
One in eight licence holders in Britain is under 25, yet one in four fatal and serious injury crashes involves a driver in this age group, and sky-high motor insurance costs reflect the risks posed by young motorists.
So will this new technology prove popular among parents when it hits the UK next year?
How does it work?
The MyKey system allows the parent to programme any key through the vehicle message centre, which updates the SecuriLock Passive Anti-Theft 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 imposes certain default driving modes.
Parents can set a top speed for the vehicle of up to 80 miles per hour, a maximum radio volume, and seat belt warnings.
The key can even stop the radio being turned on until all passengers have fastened their seat belts. It provides earlier low-fuel warnings and can be programmed to sound alerts at 45, 55 and 65 mph to help keep speed in check.
In addition to this it will also be linked to the emergency services: if the car crashes, the device will call the police automatically and a GPS signal will alert them to its location as well.
The technology is already available in the US on all new Ford Focus models and will come to Europe in 2012 on the new Ford Fiesta.
How will it help young drivers?
More than half of the parents surveyed by Ford said they worry that their teenagers are driving recklessly, talking on mobile phones or texting, or are otherwise distracted.
A third of parents also said that their teens do not always fasten their safety belts when driving. And according to national figures, teens are more likely to take risks such as speeding – a contributing factor in an estimated 30 per cent of all fatal crashes.
“Ford not only offers industry-leading crash protection and crash avoidance systems, we also are committed to developing new technologies such as MyKey that encourage safer driving behaviour,” said Sue Cischke, Ford group vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering.
“MyKey can help promote safer driving, particularly among teens, by encouraging safety belt use, limiting speed and reducing distractions.”
What do parents think?
About 50 per cent of those who would consider purchasing MyKey told Ford that they would allow their children to use the family vehicle more often if it were equipped with the new technology.
The added seat time can help young drivers build their driving skills in a more controlled setting, complementing proposals for graduated licensing laws that would give young drivers more freedom as they get older.
Teenage drivers surveyed by Ford said they are largely open to MyKey if it means they will have more freedom to drive. Initially, 67 per cent of teens polled said they wouldn’t want MyKey features.
However, if using MyKey would lead to greater driving privileges, only 36 per cent would object to the technology.
Cutting motoring costs
Ford say that using MyKey to teach teens to avoid speeding can provide an added benefit – improved fuel economy.
Ford research shows that driving 55 mph instead of 65 mph consumes 15 per cent less fuel, and mastering other eco-driving habits can help improve fuel economy by more than 50 per cent.