The sound system won't play unless the driver is buckled in
The sound system won’t play unless the driver is buckled in. Click image to enlarge

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Ford Motor Company of Canada

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Article and photos by Jil McIntosh

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Ford MyKey

Oakville, Ontario – Many years ago, a great number of households in southern Ontario watched WKBW on television – “Channel 7” from across the border in Buffalo, New York. Just before the nightly newscast, a voice would intone, “It’s eleven o’clock – do you know where your children are?”

Well, you might not know exactly where they are, but Ford says that with its new MyKey system, you’ll have a better idea of what they’re doing. The system, which will debut as standard equipment on the 2010 Focus and later be added to many other Ford and Lincoln models, sets limits on the car’s top speed, prevents the traction control from being disabled, chimes warnings at pre-set speeds, encourages seatbelt use, and caps the volume on the audio system.

“MyKey doesn’t track your child, but it helps to reinforce good driving habits,” said Kerri Stoakley, communications manager for Ford of Canada, who gave me a demonstration of the new system. “We’ve also had feedback from fleet operators, who see a use for the system.”

MyKey, which will be a no-charge standard feature, is a program that works through the message centre in the instrument cluster, and is invisible to drivers who don’t want to use it.

The system allows drivers to program keys through the ignition and the message centre, turning them into “MyKey keys.” When used to start the car, these keys trigger the pre-set system, limiting what the vehicle will do. Any microchipped key can become a MyKey – it can be one of the two that comes with the car, while replacement or extra keys for the Focus are $42 each – but the system keeps track, and so one key always remains the administrator. This administrator key must be inserted first in order to program other keys to become the limited-system MyKeys, which maintains parental control and also prevents all of the car’s available keys from being programmed with limits, with no master key to override them. The MyKeys can also be “wiped clean” of their limits, if desired, and then reprogrammed at any time.

Once the MyKey is inserted, the system reads the chip inside, and brings up the limits programmed into it. Three of them are automatic defaults. The regular seatbelt reminder chime plays, but the stereo won’t – at least, not until the driver has buckled up, and the front passenger as well, if the airbag system detects that there’s someone in that particular seat. The car also provides an earlier low-fuel warning, giving a heads-up at 120 km to empty, rather than the usual 80 km notice. And if the vehicle is equipped with special safety features such as Park Aid, or the new Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with cross-traffic alert, the system won’t allow the driver to disable them.

Beyond those, parents can also program additional items into the key’s chip, using the message centre setup menu: speed alert chimes at 72, 88 or 105 km/h; the inability to disable the traction control system; a limit on the audio system to 44 per cent of its total volume; and a limited top speed of 129 km/h.

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