Ford MyKey System Puts the Brakes on Teen Drivers

First it was the TV, then the Internet. Now it's the family car. The rise of chips n' software is turning out to be best thing that ever happened to a nervous parent

2010 Ford Taurus SHO

With a 365-horsepower twin-turbo V6, spry handling and a comfortable and attractive interior, Ford's new Taurus SHO is a welcome return of a sleeper performance sedan.Ford Motor Company

It's driver's license day. Time to borrow the keys and head to the mall -- and, of course, to test out that 130-mph top speed on dad's Ford Taurus SHO. Not so fast, whippersnapper. Ford's MyKey system is in effect. The new top speed is 80. And put on that seatbelt.

For nervous parents, MyKey may be the next best thing to hiring an armed nanny to ride along with their kids. Mom or dad can program junior's own key fob to limit the car's functions, with an eye toward keeping brand-new drivers from getting in over their heads.

The system reads the transponder chip in the key fob and adjusts the car's electronic control systems accordingly. Burnouts? Forget about it. Traction control can't be undone. Tunes cranking? Sorry, the volume level is capped. The system also issues a chime (and mutes the audio system) if the seatbelt isn't on. It can also be set to chime in -- a by-proxy "slow down!" -- at 45, 55, or 65 mph. (It's like so annoying!)

Another novel feature, which I wouldn't mind using, sets an earlier low-fuel warning. Instead of getting a warning at 50 miles to empty, MyKey pipes up at 75 miles to empty. (Wait, did Ford say 50 miles? I always though it was more like 25.)

Ford cites a poll by Harris Interactive that 64 percent of teens would be open to such technology if it meant greater driving privileges. Naturally, at first 67 percent said they were totally not into it. It just goes to show, "between grief and nothing, I'll take grief." (RIP, John Hughes).

Ford says MyKey will be offered as a standard feature on many Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury models.