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Reining in Teenage Drivers

Senior consumer reporter and “Deal of Day” columnist Kelli B. Grant navigates the New York International Auto Show in search of the best, worst and coolest from automakers’ new lineups. Join her as she roams the exhibit floor before the show’s public opening on Friday, with dispatches here and on Twitter @kellibgrant

Getting car keys is a symbol of teenage freedom, but technology is increasingly keeping young drivers in check.

Ford’s My Key System, introduced as a standard feature in the 2010 Focus, is now standard on most of the brand’s models. Programmable keys let parents set a variety of limits on individual drivers.

A few highlights: parents can trigger radio silence unless every occupant is buckled in, and cap the car’s maximum speed, says a spokesman. With more vehicles offering advanced features like parking assistance and rear-view cameras, the My Key can make sure young drivers don’t disable those features, no matter how badly they need to figure out parallel parking. And if you’ve ponied up for satellite radio, it’s possible to block particular content.

Parents may still find it’s tough to keep wild drivers in check, however. Getting around the system is as simple as switching keys with someone else in the family who has fewer restrictions, and a spokesman says it’s possible to reprogram the keys. The Ford My Key doesn’t offer any feedback for parents, either, on Junior’s penchant for driving 90mph down the highway. “The system doesn’t report back,” he says.


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