/ Motoring

Will Ford’s MyKey help curb (some) teens’ unsafe driving?

Ford’s MyKey aims to set a speed limit on teenage drivers. Should we welcome this latest safety innovation or are we letting technology fill the parenting gap?

It’s hard to forget the exhilarating sense of freedom and independence offered by that first ever solo jump behind the wheel. Even if it was still your old folks’ car, for the first time ever it was you deciding the where, when and even how fast.

However, for this generation of teenagers, technology, rather than strict parenting is about to ever so slightly clip those exuberant teenage wings.

Holding teenage drivers back

Ford’s MyKey system allows car owners to programme a “master key” that sets limits on how the car is driven. For instance, the top speed can be capped, seatbelt and lower low-fuel warnings activated and even the stereo volume limited (though we don’t think it can effect music choice just yet). You can expect to see the MyKey on Fiesta’s from 2012.

Crucially it lets parents prevent know-it-all teenagers (who get their own not so smart key) from deactivating safety systems and tearing down country lanes at 100mph.

Of course, that’s a crass generalization, and there’s likely more safety conscious teens on our roads than not, but teenagers still sit uncomfortably in the high-risk category.

Whatever your parenting style, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to counter-act a mix of inexperience and youthful risk-taking exuberance. And though MyKey may feel to some like a bit of technological nanny-ing, if it means giving kids the freedom of their first solo drive with fewer risks then I’m all for it.

Technology becomes the parent

According to Department of Transport statistics, road deaths have been falling for years (it dropped by a remarkable 17% between 2009 and 2010).

That’s down to years of legislation, safety campaigns and safety technology, from the humble seat belt (pressure from Which? helped make them compulsory) to the latest advanced braking systems. MyKey could potentially fit into this pattern – only time will tell how much of an impact it makes.

MyKey certainly isn’t a panacea, but it could be a glimpse into all our driving futures. If Ford is able to give parents a “master key” that limits a car’s capabilities for their kids, what’s to stop manufacturers completely removing driver freedom and limiting cars for the rest of us?

Who knows, your next car might just hold the master key and call the shots.


Putting the car in a straight jacket is effectively putting dangerously unsafe cars on the road. Can you imagine a 1.1 fiesta being “limited”? They’ll be like the Hispania Racing of the motorway, mobile chicanes, causing traffic and accidents.

Personally, I think it is a ridiculous idea. All for the sake of saving insurance cash,”lets cause more accidents on the road for other people and more congestion as long as I am paying less”. I find this alarming to be honest.

It’s just another gimmick to try and sell cars, another “gizmo” to add as an optional extra. Like I’ve said in other conversations, cars have reached their technological peak. Developments these days tend to take more and more responsibility off the driver. Call me old fashioned but I want a car to “drive” and not “guide” 🙂

Family relationships are under enough strain without this!

It provides a very strong incentive to defeat the system and for the driver to demonstrate what they have achieved.

What we can do with electronics is evolving, and we live in exciting times. I find it disappointing that so many people are happy using products with glaring design faults, but perhaps that’s not a serious issue. Ford’s MyKey could be something that should never have got into production, though I would not mind having one to let me know if I am inadvertently exceeding the speed limit.

A poor implemention of a (potentially) good technology.

Rather than have a key simply limit the speed of a particular vehicle to say, 60 mph, still allowing a crassly idiotic driver to kill someone apart from themselves in a built-up area, why not have the road inform the vehicle what the limit is and the vehicle will not exceed that limit, for every driver and every vehicle.

The technologies already exist to do this. Cruise control enables a car to be driven at a set speed, GPS knows the location of the car and the applicable speed limit, or RFID tags buried in the road surface could signal the speed limit and other useful information to passing vehicles, or roads could be bar-coded, etc. In other words, why bother telling the driver what the speed limit is, tell the car instead.

We can get rid off all that horrible street furniture: speed limit signs, Gatso cameras, speed humps, SLOW DOWN, which are unnecessary distractions to good drivers. And no driver will need to worry about unintentionally breaking the speed limit or points on their license as a result.

Speed limits can be more accurately targetted to road conditions and thereby raised to more realistic levels for ALL drivers, not just the selfish minority who flout the law. (The current thinking seems to be: “Lets make it 20/30mph because some drivers are going to drive at 40mph anyway”.)

Em lights blue touch paper and retires amongst howls of protest … .

Tweety says:
8 September 2011

A good idea in practice, although I do think a speed limiter would be an idea for people of all ages, as it isn’t just teens who speed. I think a better alternative is the likes of the black box schemes such as i-Kube and Young Marmalade. This monitors how young people drive and offers points for good driving, subtracts points for bad driving, and a fee of £40 if venturing out after 11pm. I had i-Kube for my first year, before black boxes became popular, and it really reduced the insurance premium yet allowed me to get about. Sure, the 11pm “curfew” thingy was a bit inconvenient now and again, but the amount I was saving made it worth it. This MyKey would be a good idea if the young driver is sharing a car with their parent, but what if they picked up the wrong key?
It’s a shame teenagers still sit in the high-risk category. Those of us who are sensible are probably the majority, but this is unfortunately ignored by insurance companies thanks to all the press coverage that “young drivers are demon drivers”, all the clowns who drive around uninsured, or who aren’t insured properly.
Good on Ford for trying something new, but I think the observation black boxes are a slightly better idea and they can of course be retrofitted.

The problem with Cruise control is that for it to work properly and not cause tailbacks on the motorway, everyone has to have it and it all has to be radar guided.

The constant braking of people using cruise control on motorways really gets my goat. Cruise control is unsafe and causes the concertina effect you see so many times in the outside lane of the motorway, hence accidents. Can no-one see this?

On a different point though, the whole point of being a young driver and having crashes is that you can learn from your mistakes. I know I did, now I haven’t had an accident for years. Cars are now safer than ever, but also cost more than ever to repair if you prang it, which might also be a factor in rising premiums


I think you have misunderstood the point of my post and also how cruise control operates.

Firstly, I was simply pointing out that technologies already exist for a vehicle to accurately regulate its own speed, e.g. cruise control. I was not suggesting existing systems would be capable of enforcing speed limits. As you pointed out, everybody would have to have it for it to be effective.

Secondly, if you do have cruise control, you will know it is not responsible for the “concertina effect” on motorways (known as “bunching”, well before cruise control was ever a standard option on cars). The last thing a driver on cruise control does is touch the brakes; that causes cruise control to immediately disengage – a safety feature.

So the constant braking you observe is neither caused nor can be sustained by drivers using cruise control. It is people driving too close and too fast for the road conditions. Even without cruise control, it is almost indefensible to touch the brakes on a motorway, unless road conditions suddenly and unexpectedly change.

And the public roads are not somewhere for youngsters to practice driving by learning from their mistakes. It is quite possible to train humans to operate complex machinery without trashing it first. How would you feel if airlines adopted that practice?

Jules says:
9 September 2011

Having had the choice of a Morris Minor or a Land Rover Discovery immediately after I passed my test 10 years ago, it was noticeable that when I did not have music my concentration level was better than driving in the modern Disco. As a new, young, or inexperienced driver placing restriction is not a bad idea for a set period of time allowing the driver to gain real road experience.
Just out of interest in The Morris Minor I went slowly and people were always forgiving of a classic car and when I drove the Disco with “P” plates again people gave me plenty of room. So it just proves other drivers views can be influenced.

Just Me says:
19 January 2012

Perfect! I’m sorry that teenagers are being targeted as the main market, as there are plenty of adolescent 40 something men and women out there that could do with the MyKey system installed permanently on their vehicles. However, teenagers ARE inexperienced, ARE prone to foolish tricks in front of their friends when mum and dad are not around, ARE rashly exuberant, and unfortunately ARE the biggest number of statistical deaths on the UK roads year on year and increasing. If reducing their abilities to be distracted, silly, and dangerous saves just one car-full of children, and let us not fool ourselves here, an eighteen year old is a child in terms of worldly experience, then I am all for such a clever device.