In its efforts to improve vehicle safety, especially amongst teenage drivers, Ford has announced plans to introduce its new ‘MyKey’ vehicle control system. Designed to help parents encourage their teenage children to drive safer and more fuel efficiently, MyKey will debut next year as standard equipment on the 2010 Focus Coupe (North American model only) and will quickly become standard on many other Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models.

The MyKey system allows owners to program a key that can limit their vehicle's top speed and audio volume. The device also encourages seat belt usage, provides earlier low fuel warnings and can be programmed to sound chimes at 45, 55 and 65mph to help control speeding. It doesn’t end there as MyKey can also be used to adjust the traction control system to limit tire spin and keep it permanently switched on.

To program the vehicle, the owner needs to insert the special MyKey into the ignition. This unlocks the vehicle message center and allows the owner to adjust the different modes.

Ford has found that up to 75% of vehicle owners would like the speed limit feature installed, while 72% want the seat belt reminder and 63% want the audio limit feature. Ford is also touting the fuel economy benefits of MyKey. According to its own research, driving at 55mph instead of 65mph consumes on average 15% less fuel.

While Ford is the first mainstream carmaker to introduce such technology, it's won't likely be the last. Insurance firms may encourage self-limited for better rates someday, while lawmakers could even make it mandatory, at least on the manufacturers end of the equation.

Its life-saving potential alone may drive voluntary adoption, as speeding and crashes among teenagers are a huge problem, costing not only lives but as much as $3.4 billion each year as well. Unfortunately, the speed-limited key system can only do so much, even with its secondary functions. Encouraging and ensuring seatbelt use is at least as big a problem - as many as two-thirds of U.S. teens killed in car accidentsdie because they weren't wearing their seatbelt.


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