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My Key™

9th October 2008

This week, Ford announced that it will be introducing a new feature, My Key™, beginning with the 2010 Ford Focus next year. My Key™ allows parents to program certain safety features on a key-by-key basis. It is done using the vehicle’s message center. These new features include:

These first 3 are “standard” when using My Key™:

  • Persistent Ford Beltminder with audio mute – Ford already has the seat belt nanny as standard equipment on all of its vehicles. It sounds a chime every minute for five minutes. This goes that extra step further to Super Nanny. First, the chime doesn’t stop after 5 minutes. But the part that will really annoy your teenager is the audio mute, which does exactly what you think. The audio system is muted until the seat belt is buckled. It also displays “Buckle Up to Unmute Audio” in the instrument cluster. Just what every teen wants – their mom programmed into the car!
  • Earlier low-fuel warning – instead of warning you when you have 50 miles to go, My Key™ warns you at 75 miles. Hard to argue with this one. I could use this myself. Actually, what they really need is a low-fuel warning that gets increasingly persistent the closer you get to empty. Maybe throw in some profanity to make sure it is noticed.
  • Park aid (this is the rear backup sonar that beeps when you get too close to something) and Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert (I really don’t know what this is) cannot be deactivated.

Features that need to be programmed:

  • Limited top speed of 80 mph – I can just hear the arguments now. “What if there’s an emergency, and I need to get home or to a hospital right away?” or “What if I’m going to be late for curfew?” Parents, get ready!
  • Traction control system, that limits tire spin, cannot be deactivated. This one will be a bummer at the Woodward Dream Cruise.
  • Limited audio volume to 44 percent of total volume. First, I want to know how Ford came up with 44%. Is that just below the “make your ears bleed” 45%? And if 44% is deemed loud enough, what kind of idiot would ever need to turn it up all the way? I’ll do the math for you. “All the way up” would be 127% louder. Wow.
  • A speed alert chime at 45, 55 or 65 mph – just in case your little genius doesn’t know how fast he/she is driving. Maybe the sound needs to be limited to 44% so you can hear the speed chime?

Kidding aside (pun intended -Ed.), I think this is a great thing to help parents trust that their kids are being responsible while driving the car without supervision. Ford has research that says that parents would likely let their kids use the car more with My Key™. This will give the kids more time behind the wheel earlier, which should make for some better drivers. Teems also said that they were cool with this technology if they got to drive more. Sounds like a win-win. Everybody is happy.


Until I see this in action, though, I have some concerns. What would stop a kid from “unprogramming” it? I assume that Ford has thought of this, but there was nothing in the press release.

Another issue is deactivation. Say you buy a brand new Focus for your angel when she’s 17. She keeps it for several years and doesn’t like how you’ve programmed it. She’s now an adult and wants the nanny gone. I’d like to be a fly on the wall for that conversation. Parent:”So exactly why do you need to drive more than 80?” or “Why would you want the radio louder than that?”

The deactivation issue also might rear its ugly head if/when you sell the car with the My Key™ still activated. Oops.

There are also potential legal issues. As mentioned above, there might actually be an emergency that involves a need to go to the hospital. I can see the headlines now. Somebody will sue Ford about this. They won’t have a case, in my opinion, but this is America! We don’t let logic influence our right to blame somebody else for our problems.

Overall, I think this is a great idea. And given Ford’s propensity to over-analyze everything, I’m sure that their legal staff (the dreaded “OGC”) has considered the issues raised above and they think this is still a good idea. I applaud the innovation. Nice work, guys.

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