New Car Technology To Help Teens Drive More Safely

Written on June 29, 2012 at 7:40 pm , by

I spent the last two days at Ford’s headquarters getting a look at the future of car technology and lots of details about how this old-school automotive company has been reinventing itself as a technology and environmental leader. I had no idea! A lot has changed since the last time I drove a Ford.

Did you know, for example, that not only is the 2013 Ford Fusion available as a gas, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid versions, it  is made from (among other things) recycled jeans and plastic and soy beans? Or that it will take over parallel parking for you? And it’s good at it. I saw this technology in action. It was able to fit the car into a not-so-big space while the driver twiddled her thumbs. She got out and took all the credit for the skilled parking job.

Even cooler are some of the technologies that are coming in the future. I watched a demo of a car that could sense when the driver is stressed by reading biometric sensors in the steering wheel. The idea is that future cars could use this information to decide to turn on lane guides in case the stress is caused by low visibility, or wait to read your text messages aloud (another coming—soon feature) until you are less distracted.

But the feature that is making me rethink my decision to give my newly minted teen driver access only to our ancient mini-van is the MyKey system. The MyKey systems programs parental controls into the key you give your teen. (When you drive with your own key, they don’t apply.) You can set a speed limit, stop the radio from playing till he buckles his seat belt, and even block inappropriate satellite radio stations from playing. Coming soon is a Do Not Disturb feature that mutes his cell phone–holding text messages and sending calls to voicemail–while he’s driving. My son could probably hack that if he wanted to because it uses Bluetooth. But I think he would welcome it. He is easily distracted by his phone. But he’s not happy about it. I’m pretty sure he wishes he was self-disciplined enough to ignore the phone while he’s driving–even when it’s his BFF calling. And I know I’d like him to live long enough to develop that sort of self control.

Here’s a video on the MyKey that explains it more completely.

Stay tuned (here and on my other blog GeekGirlfriends.com) for more info on my intense 48 hours in Detroit.

Christina Tynan-Wood writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle, and is the author of “How to Be a Geek Goddess.” You can find her at GeekGirlfriends.com, as well as here on Momster.com.