Ford’s Clever Key Fob: Will It Make Teen Drivers Safer, or More Reckless?

Can a key fob coded with performance restrictions compel safer driving, or will it merely encourage new risk taking?

2010 Ford Taurus


Any parent to a teenager (or former teenager, actually) knows how ineffectual it is to tell the kid to be safe when they’re borrowing the family car. “Wear your seatbealt and use your turn signals, promise?” But as Popular Science reports, Ford’s unveiling a new device which returns a bit of power to the parents. Set to become a standard feature in 2010 on several Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models, it basically acts as an automated nanny, capping the performance of the car to force safer driving habits:

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!)

Will it work though? Safety measures have a long history of actually encouraging risky behavior rather than quashing it. Seat belts laws, for example, might not actually increase road safety, due to an effect called risk compensation. Basically, the idea is that a heightened feeling of safety just encourages you to recalibrate your recklessness upwards–thus, those wearing seat belts might drive more dangerously.

With MyKey, could it be that kids will simply drive crazier at lower speeds? Or maybe they’ll even relish the chance to drive on ungoverned vehicles a bit too much–consequently driving faster and turning the music louder whenever they do get the chance. And there’s always the possibility that they’ll simply sneak around their parents and hack the system–after all, that’s what teenagers do.

[Via Popular Science]

About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.