Ford hopes MyKey gets blessed by the insurance industry

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

Ford is looking for a little help from insurance companies.

Specifically, it is hoping owners of Ford Motor Co. vehicles equipped with MyKey receive a discount on auto insurance.

MyKey permits mom and dad to put limits on a teen's driving experience. It is about safety and reducing the number of distractions while driving. The system was introduced on the 2010 Ford Focus and is now standard on nearly all Ford and Lincoln models.

For example, a parent can program the system so it limits the vehicle's top speed to 80 mph when a teen is driving. A master key, kept by the parent, is used to set the limitations. A separate key used by the teen can't alter the restrictions.

If the seat belts are not attached, the system mutes the radio, CD player, satellite radio and MP3 player. When the belts are buckled, it limits volume to 50 percent of the maximum. It also prevents a teen from making and receiving phone calls using the car's BlueTooth system.

MyKey will be tweaked next year. Parents will be able to reduce the maximum speed to 60 or 70 mph. And adult programming on satellite radio will be off limits.

Ford is sharing data about MyKey performance and useage with a few insurance agencies, according to one of the automaker's technology managers who participated in a media briefing this week.

Insurance companies will monitor the system's effectiveness to determine if there is a reduction in accidents involving teen drivers.

A discount for new safety technology would not be unusual. After all, some insurance companies gave discounts to owners of the first vehicles with airbags and, later, anti-lock brakes.

If insurance companies give a thumbs up, Ford will have a big marketing advantage over its competitors — at least for a short time until rivals catch up.

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