Blown To Bits

Sure You Can Take My Car, but Not My Key

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008 by Harry Lewis

In Blown to Bits we talk about the Electronic Data Recorders in new cars, which document critical data about speed and braking. In case of an accident, the police and the insurance company will know far better what happened just before the accident than they used to, when they had to rely on witness testimony and accident reconstruction from skid marks and the like.

Here’s another innovation in digital automotive technology. Ford has introduced a digital key that sets the vehicle’s operating parameters. So if you don’t want Johnny driving the car over 80mph, you just make sure that Johnny’s key won’t let him. Your own key fits the same ignition lock, but lets you drive as fast as you want.

Other things the key controls are chimes that sound when the vehicle’s speed passes certain thresholds, — and the stereo volume, which can be maxed out at 44% of the system’s capabilities.

Though the key is programmed at home, it appears that the programmability is limited. You can’t set the top speed at 60, for example, only at 80. That is probably a good idea — there are occasions when you need a burst of speed for collision avoidance. But no reason why the codes couldn’t do something more complicated in the future — such as letting you drive over 60mph only for short periods.

Surprise, surprise: Parents like this feature and kids don’t.

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