10.08.2008

Ford Takes Mistake-Proofing to a New Level

Congratulations to Ford for applying some needed common sense to car design by creatively using technology for mistake-proofing.

Cars have many features designed to protect the driver and passengers from making mistakes or suffering from accidents. But this latest one is different.

It is called MyKey. According to a
description in The New York Times, it is a programmable key that “allows parents to limit teenage drivers to a top speed of 80 miles per hour, cap the volume on the car stereo, demand seat belt use and encourage other safe-driving habits.”

I
argued last month that the way to reduce traffic fatalities is to make it impossible for people to speed – by limiting how fast cars can go. I said, “Perhaps a clever auto manufacturer might begin by offering built-in speed limits on vehicles targeted to parents buying cars for their sons and daughters going off to college or just starting adulthood.”

MyKey will be standard equipment on the 2010 Ford Focus, and eventually all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models. The limits it imposes are only through one key; there is also a master key that does not impose any limits.

“This is a huge step in the right direction,” said Ellen Gaddie, director of JourneySafe, an outreach program established by the Gillian Sabet Memorial Foundation, which was started by the parents of a California teenager killed in a 2005 crash. “Ford has identified all of the things we consistently talk about. Kids speed. Kids don’t wear seat belts. Kids like to play loud music while they drive.”

MyKey can sound a chime whenever the vehicle travels above 45, 55 or 65 miles per hour, and prevent the driver from turning off safety features like traction control, which inhibits spinning tires. It can also be set to mute the radio and chime repeatedly until the driver is buckled up.

“Teens have the lowest seat-belt use,” said Susan Cischke, Ford’s group vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering. “So we allow parents to turn up the annoyance factor a little bit.”

A purist might debate whether MyKey is, strictly speaking, mistake-proofing. That does not concern me.

Will MyKey have an impact on the number of traffic fatalities? I don’t know. But I like it.

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