Modern technology means that parental controls are now spreading to cars as factory equipment, and the automaker leading the charge is Ford. Using the latest version of the company's MyKey system, parents can now block their children from listening to certain radio stations – say, for instance, Howard Stern or Playboy Radio on satellite. In fact, there are a dozen stations listed as explicit by Sirius, and all of them can be blocked using MyKey starting in 2011.
Also seeing an upgrade for 2011 is MyKey's speed-limiting technology. Previously, the top speed of a properly equipped Ford vehicle could be capped at 80 miles per hour (with chimes sounding at 45, 55 and 65). Now, users can preset a desired speed limit at any of four different settings – 65, 70, 75 or 80 mph. While an obvious safety feature, the technology can also dramatically improve fuel efficiency.
Already, Ford's MyKey allows parents to limit audio volume, encourage seatbelt usage by muting the radio until front occupants buckle up and provide earlier low-fuel warnings. All of these could be considered important safety features, considering that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that teens are more likely to speed (a contributing factor in 30 percent of fatal accidents) and are less likely to use their safety-belts.
Ford contracted the firm Penn, Schoen & Berland to conduct a survey regarding its new MyKey features, and the results aren't terribly surprising: 85 percent of parents believe the speed limiting controls are important and 60 percent say the same regarding the radio content controls. Even 45 percent of teen drivers themselves say they approve of the technology... just as long as it means they get extended driving privileges from their parents. Of course, said teens can also simply circumvent the MyKey safety leash by listening to CDs or their MP3 players, but we digress.
Check out a video and full press release after the break to learn more about how the system works.
Just as parents block their teens from watching X-rated films or web videos, Ford Motor Company will introduce the world's first technology that will screen explicit radio content while youngsters are driving.
* Ford is upgrading its award-winning MyKey® feature with a world-first technology that allows parents to block explicit satellite radio programming while their teens are driving
* The upgraded MyKey technology also will allow parents to limit a vehicle's top speed at any of four different settings – 65, 70, 75 or 80 mph
* A new poll by Penn, Schoen & Berland shows a majority of parents with teen drivers like MyKey's features, including nearly 60 percent who say the feature to block adult radio programming is important and 85 percent who believe the speed-limiting feature is important
* The upgraded version of MyKey will debut as a standard feature late next year on the Ford Taurus and Explorer and will quickly be offered across a variety of Ford and Lincoln models
DEARBORN, Mich., Dec. 29, 2010 – Ford Motor Company is preparing to debut a new version of its breakthrough MyKey® technology that – for the first time – will allow parents to block explicit satellite radio content in the vehicle, much like parents are able to prevent children from viewing certain types of television and Internet content.
The new feature will debut next year as standard equipment on the Ford Taurus and Ford Explorer, and will eventually be available across a variety of Ford and Lincoln vehicles. MyKey – designed to help parents encourage safe teen driving habits – is an easily programmable key that can limit a vehicle's top speed, limit radio volume and encourage safety-belt usage by muting the radio until front occupants buckle up.
The radio-blocking feature works by screening out more than a dozen channels labeled by Sirius® Satellite Radio as "explicit." While similar technology is used for blocking inappropriate content on televisions and computers, never before has such an option been available for radio programming in vehicles.
Ford's current MyKey system – standard on most North American vehicles after launching in summer 2009 – allows owners to program a key that can limit the vehicle's top speed to 80 mph, with chimes sounding at 45, 55 and 65 mph. The upgraded MyKey technology will now allow parents to limit a vehicle's top speed at any of four different settings – 65, 70, 75 or 80 mph.
"Ford wants to give parents peace of mind that their kids are following practical household rules in the car," says Graydon Reitz, director, Ford Electrical and Electronic Systems Engineering. "Parents obviously like this type of feature, and many teens are okay with it when they hear parents may give them the keys more often if the car comes with a technology such as Ford's MyKey."
In a poll conducted for Ford by Penn, Schoen & Berland, nearly 60 percent of parents of teen drivers said the new MyKey feature that allows for blocking explicit radio content is an important technology. The survey also indicated that 85 percent of parents with teen drivers find the speed-limiting feature important.
The additional top-speed limits available in the next generation of MyKey will help parents set appropriate limits as their teens transition from driving in town to traveling on the highway. Additional features already available on MyKey limit audio volume, encourage safety-belt usage by muting the radio until front occupants buckle up, and provide earlier low-fuel warnings.
In the poll, more than half of parents also said they would allow their teens to use the family vehicle more often if it were equipped with MyKey. Meanwhile, 45 percent of teens surveyed would approve of MyKey restrictions if it meant the possibility of additional driving privileges.
Tuning into teen safetyAccording to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teens are more likely to take risks such as speeding – a contributing factor in 30 percent of all fatal crashes. Teens also are less likely to wear safety belts than older drivers.
"Like graduated licensing laws, MyKey helps parents set reasonable limits for teens as they're building driving skills," Reitz said. "We developed MyKey's functions in such a way as to quickly spread it across multiple vehicle lines, giving us the ability to go mass market in the spirit of other Ford innovations such as SYNC®."
Holding the key
MyKey allows the parent to program any key through the intuitive MyFord Touch™ interface. When the key is inserted into the ignition, the system reads the transponder chip in the key and immediately identifies the MyKey code, which enables certain default driving modes, including:
* Persistent Ford Belt-Minder® with audio mute. Ford's Belt-Minder system typically provides a six-second reminder chime every minute for five minutes. With MyKey, the Belt-Minder chime continues at the regular interval and the audio system is muted until the safety belt is buckled. A message center display, "Buckle Up to Unmute Radio," also appears on the instrument cluster
* Earlier low-fuel warning. Rather than a warning at 50 miles to empty, MyKey provides a warning at 75 miles to empty
* If MyKey is in the ignition, features such as park aid and BLIS® (Blind Spot Information System) with cross-traffic alert cannot be deactivated
Additional MyKey features that can be programmed through the vehicle's MyFord Touch menu:
* Parental control of explicit radio programming
* Limited top speed of 65, 70, 75 or 80 mph
* Traction control system, which limits tire spin, cannot be deactivated
* Limited audio volume to 44 percent of maximum
* A speed alert chime at 45, 55 or 65 mph
Using MyKey to encourage 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 percent less fuel, and mastering other eco-driving habits, such as avoiding jackrabbit starts and excessive idling, can help improve fuel economy by more than 50 percent.
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 163,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln and Mercury, production of which has been announced by the company to be ending in the fourth quarter of 2010. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.