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Another Ag-First Innovation?

New tech in the auto industry is old hat to us. Thanks to off-road innovation.

I was checking out some new technology recently with my phone and came across a Web video that caught my attention. The folks at Ford - or perhaps we should call it the "new" Ford - were touting new hot stuff on the 2010 Ford Taurus including a specific feature I knew I had seen before.

Ford offers the MyKey program for the Taurus SHO - their highest performing version of the four-door sedan. The tech is designed to limit what a person behind the wheel - namely your 16-year-old - can do. The MyKey will limit top speed to 80; turns on the Belt-Minder to make sure you buckle up (in fact the stereo won't even turn up until you do); limits stereo volume to 45% because noise can be a fledgling driver distraction; and locks in the AdvanceTrac to prevent tire-spinning, and donut-making.

What a great idea!

Then I realized I had already seen a similar technology - perhaps without all those grins and giggles - on an off-road vehicle that's popular on a lot of farms. You see Polaris already offers something similar on its Ranger 400 side-by-side vehicle. They call it SpeedKey.

Yep, an off-road, ag-oriented machine was ahead of the tech curve over a hot new tech touted by a major auto company. Of course the Polaris SpeedKey simply limits top speed from the usual 40 mph to 23 mph, but the concept and the result are the same. The aim was to make sure in a situation where younger drivers were involved, the owner would have the option of controlling the machine's top-end speed.

It's a great idea because safety is a critical concern for all equipment we operate on the farm. And the SpeedKey is a super tool. I once joked that I would get a Ranger for the Farm Progress Show and provide the SpeedKey to editors and keep the faster "owner's" key for myself...I mean that's not a bad idea is it?

The hot new 2010 Ford Taurus offers the MyKey technology to control what some drivers can do. The SpeedKey from Polaris, right, has been around a little longer.

When I travel I run into a lot of non-farm folks on airplanes and other situations. When they ask what I do and I mention agriculture I sometimes wonder if the image they conjure in their heads is one of a Ford 8N (the original) and a two-bottom plow. Of course as I've noted in this blog in the past, it's not like ad agencies and consumer firms are painting a different picture; the non-tech view of ag is common.

Now, at least I have further proof that ag (and our colleagues in the off-road industry) are ahead of those "high-tech" car companies. I tip my hat to Polaris and other off-road and farm machinery makers who are taking tech to the next level.

Of course, the tech involved in the Ford MyKey program may be a little more extensive; but it isn't the first time the idea has been used.

I do have to give Ford credit for having fun with the idea in their Web advertising campaign. I've embedded a video below that shows the MyKey being applied to the "sophomore class." It's pretty funny - and watch it to the end. Do you know what an Audi A6 is?

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