Many parents fear letting their teenagers start to drive, and with good reason. Fatal auto crashes are the leading cause of death among Americans ages 15 to 20. But new technology can help give parents some peace of mind by letting them set a limit on the car’s speed and by tracking the location of their teenage driver on the road.
Ford and General Motors have taken two different approaches. Ford’s MyKey lets parents set the maximum speed of the car and limit the volume of the audio system. General Motors Family Link — part of its OnStar service — tracks the location of the car driven by a teenager and sends text messages to the parents if it is driven outside a stipulated area. Here is a closer look at these two systems.
Available in any model equipped with the MyFordTouch infotainment system, this technology gives a special key to the parent that allows setting the controls. Maximum speed can be set for 80 MPH. Beeper reminders will sound as the car reaches designated speeds — say 50 MPH or 65 MPH. The parent can put limits on the volume of the audio system to minimize distraction. And the radio will not turn on if seat belts are not fastened.
MyKey was developed as Ford safety executive Andy Sarkisian worried about his two daughters who were nearing driving age. He says he wanted a system that allowed parents to set limits but still gave teens some driving freedom.
“MyKey is not about control, it’s about love,” he says. “It’s about helping them manage the transition from childhood to adulthood and keeping them safe while they do it.”
General Motors Family Link
The GM system does not involve controls on the car itself. But it lets parents stipulate where the teenager can drive. Once you set that perimeter online, you will get a text message if your teenager decides on a sudden road trip and crosses that digital barrier. You also can locate the vehicle at any time by going onto the system’s web site.
Family Link is a $3.99 per month add-on to the GM OnStar service, which calls emergency services if you are in a crash and also provides navigation service. All GM vehicles are equipped for OnStar, but the basic service is $19.99 a month or $29.99 if you get GPS navigation. At the OnStar web site, you also can set up text messages for specific locations — for instance to tell you that your teen has arrived at school at 8 a.m. daily.
[Jerry Edgerton – CBS MoneyWatch]