Automotive Safety & Rules of the Road, Ford

FORD Shows Us Some Very Useful Safety Features – MyKey And Other Safety Innovations

Road Test Special 
While Ford were encouraging us to put the Fiesta through its paces, they also took the opportunity to demonstrate a couple of their “exciting” new features that when I first heard about them a couple of months ago, I just discarded after reading – thinking they don’t apply to me. Upon further examination and a real-life demo I discovered I couldn’t have been more wrong. These are not only innovative, but take Ford to a new level in safety – other manufacturers are going to be scrambling to come out with their own version of these products.

We’ll look at the Active Park Assist another time, but let’s start with the ingenious MyKey system….

MyKey™ allows parents or other concerned owners to restrict certain features of their car when in the hands of a MyKey driver – sort of like parental controls on a computer. It’s as simple as programming the key to be in sync with the car – it takes about a minute. MyKey encourages safety belt usage – you get one minute to put your safety belt on – if you don’t, you get your radio/stereo cut off.

Fasten your belt and the car allows you to hear your tunes again (now if they could only block cell phone use & texting!). MyKey also provides earlier low fuel warnings, engages applicable driver aid systems (meaning that the MyKey user can’t dis-engage traction control for example) and sounds speed chimes at pre-set levels (72, 88 and 106 km per hour / 45, 55 and 65 miles per hour), while limiting audio system volume and top vehicle speed. It’s like nagging the kids from afar.

Ford did a lot of research before bringing this to market, and discovered that parents are MORE likely to give their kids the keys to the car when it had the MyKey system available. Sounds like a win-win situation for all families – even the ones with a Mustang GT in the corral. The important thing to remember of course is that this isn’t just for people with teenagers – anyone that lends their car or businesses with fleets would also benefit from this.

Because MyKey is a software programme and not hardware, Ford plans to install this as a standard feature throughout their entire lineup of vehicles over the next year or two. As long as the vehicle has a message centre – it can have the MyKey system.

Here are more details – directly from Ford…
MyKey is appealing to parents of teen drivers, including 75 percent who like the speed-limiting feature, 72 percent who like the more insistent safety-belt reminder, and 63 percent who like the audio limit feature, according to a recent Harris Interactive Survey conducted for Ford.

About 50 percent of those who would consider purchasing MyKey also said they would allow their children to use the family vehicle more often if it were equipped with the new technology.

More than half of parents surveyed worry that their teenage children are driving at unsafe speeds, talking on hand-held cell phones or texting while driving, or otherwise driving distracted.  More than a third of parents also are concerned that their teens do not always buckle their safety belts when driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 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.

Teens surveyed by Harris said they are largely open to MyKey if it means they will have more freedom to drive.  Initially, 67 percent of teens polled said they wouldn’t want MyKey features.  However, if using MyKey would lead to greater driving privileges, only 36 percent would object to the technology.

“We’ve upgraded an existing, proven technology – the SecuriLock passive anti-theft system – with some simple software upgrades to develop a new unique feature that we believe will resonate with customers,” said Jim Buczkowski, director, Electrical and Electronic Systems Engineering – the same team that developed SYNC in partnership with Microsoft.

“We also developed MyKey’s functions in such a way 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 safety belts, stability control and SYNC.”

Holding the key

The MyKey system allows the parent to program any key through the vehicle message centre, which updates the SecuriLock™ passive anti-theft system.  When the MyKey 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 Beltminder™ with audio mute.  Ford’s Beltminder system typically provides a six-second reminder chime every minute for five minutes.  With MyKey, the Beltminder chime continues at the regular interval and the audio system is muted until the safety belt is buckled. A message centre display “Buckle Up to Unmute Radio” also appears on the instrument cluster.

Earlier low-fuel warning.  Rather than a warning at 80 km (50 miles) to empty, MyKey provides a warning at 120 km (75 miles) to empty.

If MyKey is in the ignition, features such as Park Aid and BLISTM (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross-Traffic Alert cannot be deactivated.

Additional MyKey features that can be programmed through the vehicle’s message centre setup menu:

•    Limited top speed of  129 km/h (80 mph)
•    Traction control system, that limits tire spin, cannot be deactivated
•    Limited audio volume to 44 percent of total volume
•    A speed alert chime at 72, 88, 105 km/h (45, 55 or 65 mph)
•    Using MyKey to teach teens to avoid speeding can provide an added benefit – improved fuel economy.  Ford’s research shows that driving 88 km/h (55 mph) instead of 105 km/h (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 the Harris Interactive Survey

The survey of 347 parents of teen-age children was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive from Aug. 1-5.  The survey of 249 teen-age drivers was conducted online within the U.S. on behalf of Ford from Sept. 17-22.  No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

Upcoming Technologies

Forward Sensing System
What is it?

The Forward Sensing System uses four ultrasonic sensors on the front bumper to determine the position of objects in front of the vehicle during low-speed driving. If an object is detected up to approximately two feet in front of the vehicle, an audible tone is played inside the cabin to alert the driver. The warning becomes a solid tone when the obstacle is within eight – 16 inches of the vehicle.


Helps assist with parallel parking and parking in a garage or crowded area.
Helps alert the driver to large, stationary obstacles in front of the vehicle when traveling at slow speeds.
The system is automatically turned off when the vehicle is in Park or Neutral.

Adaptive Cruise Control

What is it?

In addition to operating like a conventional cruise control system, Adaptive Cruise Control automatically slows the vehicle if it detects traffic ahead. The system uses radar sensors mounted in the front fascia to gauge slowing traffic. Once traffic clears, the system returns the vehicle to the selected speed.


Allows customers to use their cruise control to travel at a safe distance in moderate traffic.
Customers can adjust the Adaptive Cruise Control to match their personal driving style.

What is it?

It is Ford’s new high-volume, affordable engine technology slated for a range of global vehicles – from small cars to large trucks. The gasoline turbocharged direct-injection technology will deliver the power and torque customers crave with the fuel economy and tailpipe emissions of smaller engines.


EcoBoost can achieve up to 20 percent better fuel economy and 15 percent fewer CO2 emissions.
This engine gives V8 performance with V6 fuel economy or V6 performance with I4 fuel economy. It will migrate from small cars to larger trucks.

The Cross Traffic Alert with Blind-Spot Monitoring System:

What is it?

The Cross Traffic Alert with Blind Spot Monitoring System is a radar-based blind-spot detection system with the additional capability to help customers confidently back out of a parking space even when there is traffic approaching from the sides. Cross-Traffic Alert uses the radar when in reverse to pick up moving objects within a 65-foot range from either the left or right side of the vehicle.

The radar also works when backing out of angled parking spaces because its view is wider than just strictly sensing traffic coming at a 90-degree angle. Conventional systems have limited sideways effectiveness. When cross traffic is approaching, two warnings are given: an indicator lights up in the corresponding outside mirror and an audible alert is sounded.


Ford’s new Cross Traffic Alert feature will assist drivers in backing up by warning drivers of impending traffic while backing out.

Copyright © 2009 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Ford
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