Orlando, Florida – Ford MyKey, solar roof panels and “green” driving assistance are among the top ten technology features available in 2009 and 2010 vehicles, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

“Over the past decade, the technology available in vehicles has grown by leaps and bounds,” said John Nielsen, AAA national director of auto repair and buying services. “It’s now quite common for our cars to talk to us, answer our phone and provide extensive protective measures in the event of a crash — things that were only dreamt of not too long ago.”

The top ten picks are:

MyKey: Introduced by Ford, MyKey uses a computer chip in the vehicle’s ignition key to limit the vehicle’s top speed and other functions. Parents can program a teen driver’s key to limit audio system levels, sound a continous alert if the driver doesn’t wear a seatbelt, or sound a chime if the driver exceeds specified speed limits.

Solar roof panels: Some hybrid models now integrate solar roof panels into their designs, which generate and send power to the electric motors that drive the car, to the climate controls, or to be stored for future use.

Lane departure warning systems: Although not new for 2009, the increased availability of the system earned it a spot on the list. These systems monitor the vehicle’s path of travel, typically by tracking lane markings, and sound an audible or tactile alert when the vehicle drifts outside of its lane. First introduced in North America by Infiniti, lane departure warning systems are now also available on select models from Cadillac, Lexus, BMW, Buick, Volvo, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

Blind spot warning systems: Some cars offer blind spot warning systems that monitor the areas at the rear sides of the vehicle that are often invisible in the mirrors, and provide an indication when an obstacle is present. Manufacturers offering the system include Mercedes-Benz, Mazda, Volvo, Buick, Cadillac and Lincoln.

Driver alertness monitors: These systems monitor the driver’s steering and throttle inputs, and send a warning when they vary too far from normal patterns, indicating a sleepy driver. Volvo introduced a similar system in 2008, called Driver Alert, and has it available on several upcoming models, while Mercedes-Benz will introduce its Attention Alert feature on select 2010 models.

Collision preparation systems: When these systems recognize that a collision may be imminent, they take steps to reduce the possibility of a crash while providing maximum protection. Depending on the model, the system may tighten the seatbelts, close windows or sunroofs, lock the doors, and apply the brakes. Manufacturers offering such systems include Acura, Lexus, Toyota, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz.

Automatic air recirculation with smog sensor: Some Lexus models automatically switch the ventilation system to recirculate when high levels of outside pollutants are detected in the cabin, and revert to fresh air intake once the levels have been reduced.

“Green” driving assistance: Several new hybrid models offer drivers a choice of operating modes that can help them obtain maximum fuel efficiency, while some manufacturers integrated visual cues into the instrument panel displays that help “teach” motorists how to drive more efficiently.

SplitView: The 2010 Mercedes-Benz S-Class will debut a new display technology that allows driver and passenger to see two totally separate programs from the same display. The driver can access navigation information and monitor various vehicle systems on the screen, while the passenger can watch a DVD on the same screen without distracting the driver. The audio program on the passenger’s side can be routed through headphones to further reduce distractions.

Enhanced vehicle stability controls: This technology is a group of features that includes anti-lock brakes, stability control, rollover control, and trailer sway control. Many higher-end vehicles also offer some form of active suspension that provides real-time variable shock absorber damping to improve ride and handling.

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