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You can drive, you just can't have any fun: Ford MyKey curbs teen drivers

John Brandon | April 10, 2014
Hand over the keys with fewer qualms. Ford MyKey lets parents set speed limits and other controls to help teen drivers stay safe.

I also found a few more useful settings to help me cope with teen drivers. The Do Not Disturb feature is unrelated to MyKey, but this option (available through the center touchscreen display) blocks calls and text messages from showing on the display. There's also a way to set a "restricted area" in the nav, so a magenta blip appears when a teen drives in that area. Youngsters might ignore that message or not even use the nav, but it's an extra tool in the toolbelt.

My Key is also designed to be hard to fool. For fun, I went to a Ford dealership and, pulling my baseball cap low and donning dark sunglasses, tried to get a service tech to re-program my key to disable the speed warnings. No luck. He said I needed the master key and proof of ownership. 

There are two "generations" of MyKey, but the differences are minimal. The 2014 F150 I drove uses the first-gen, but it'll start selling with the second-gen version soon. The new version gives you a few more options for speed limit alerts.

Ford's Sarkisian told me the MyKey system will change with technology advancements, but he's mindful of new privacy concerns and possible feature distraction. To develop MyKey, he says the team sought the opinions of hundreds of students and parents.

A key to the future
"With new technologies like lane departure warning and forward collision warning—we will look at this and say, do you want Junior to be able to turn off these safety features? There's also a broader opportunity for research into fuel efficient routing in nav systems," he says.

The MyKey system was pretty subtle in my experience. It popped up only when I drove a bit recklessly—hitting 65MPH, or trying to punch it up to 80MPH. Still, the truck could have done a bit more in the cab to instruct teen drivers without betraying privacy.

"I would like to see MyKey expand into an awareness and educational feature for new drivers in addition to being a tool to cap certain driving aspects and enforcing specific driver behavior," says Thilo Koslowski, an auto analyst with Gartner. "MyKey could create a driver/driving report' that allows parents to review driving events and issues (e.g., too erratic driving and braking)."

That said, I'm a big fan of MyKey. The buckle-up reminder is invaluable. The speed-limit warnings and the 80MPH speed limiter could could save teens from a ticket—or worse. It's all for the sake of education and fostering discussion with teens, and that's priceless.

 

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