Automakers lately have touted lots of new electronic options for their cars, including technology that lets drivers use voice commands and touch screens to make and receive calls and listen to their text messages.

As FairWarning reported last month, though, many of those new gizmos worry safety advocates. They say that the automakers — even as they carry out campaigns to warn consumers about the dangers of distracted driving — are themselves creating new, potentially deadly distractions.

With those kinds of concerns apparently in mind, Ford Motor Co. on Thursday announced electronics-powered safety features that will be available early next year on its hot-selling Ford Explorer.

As the Detroit Free Press reports, Ford will add a “Do Not Disturb” feature that will block phone calls coming into the vehicles’ Sync hands-free phone system. Also being introduced is a feature enabling parents to hold down the speed at which their children drive to 65 mph, and a “no belts, no tunes” control that mutes the audio system until front occupants buckle up.

Separately, the 2013 Ford Explorer will offer a lane-keeping system. The system, which will rely on a camera mounted behind the rear-view mirror, will sound a signal and trigger a vibration in the steering wheel when it detects that a driver has drifted outside a lane or too close to the road’s shoulder.

Ford’s latest tech announcement follows criticism by Consumer Reports last week about the automaker’s previously announced souping up of its Sync communications feature. Consumer Reports said that the earlier enhancement, designed to make it easier for drivers to listen to text messages behind the wheel, “may well only make distraction more of a problem as drivers find it easier to continue conversations behind the wheel.”

The publication suggested that the timing of that announcement was “curious,” given that it came during Teen Safe Driving Week.


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