“CAN I borrow the car tonight, Dad?” It’s the dreaded question that has made many a parent’s blood run cold over the years.
Do you say no and trigger a teenage tantrum and a week-long sulk? Or do you agree and spend the evening waiting anxiously for the phone call from A & E, the car repair firm or both?
There may now be a partial solution to this no-win conundrum, thanks to a brilliant new system that’s been around in America for a while and which is about to make its debut in the UK.
It’s called MyKey and it’s a special key being pioneered by Ford that enables parents to programme how their car behaves when their kids are driving.
For instance, it can restrict the car’s maximum speed, limit volume levels on the stereo, or prevent the switching-off of safety technology such as traction control or city-stop automatic braking.
It can even be programmed to switch off the music system – the ultimate deterrent! – if seatbelts aren’t being worn and provide an early warning system if the fuel is starting to run low.
The MyKey technology is due to arrive in Britain with the new Ford Fiesta before Christmas and will be rolled out as an option on all Ford models by 2015.
Ford are hoping it will appeal to potential customers who want to be sure their offspring can’t use the family runabout for tearing around the streets or generally driving irresponsibly.
Recent statistics have shown that in Europe drivers under the age of 25 are twice as likely as any other age group to be involved in a fatal crash, so the Ford strategy can only be a positive thing.
“All parents know that if teenagers are experts at one thing, it’s finding ways of getting into trouble,” said Ford’s European MyKey system architect, Peter Patzelt. “MyKey allows Fiesta owners to set sensible restrictions for young drivers and delivers peace of mind for parents.”
MyKey was first introduced by Ford in the US and is now standard on most new North American Ford vehicles. It works by recognising different keys for the same car and then adjusting the vehicle settings according to the owner’s requirements.
A survey of more than 6,000 parents of young drivers across Europe found 53 per cent would be more likely to allow a teenage son or daughter to drive their car if it was equipped with the new technology.
“Parents love MyKey because it helps them reduce their teenagers’ exposure to risk at the wheel,” Mr Patzelt said. “Young drivers are not too keen until they learn that it often improves the chances of their parents allowing them to drive.”