Ford Upgrades to Curve Control in 2011 Explorer

Ford Motor Company is updating the capabilities of the electronic stability control system in the new 2011 Ford Explorers to ensure that the vehicles perform safely if the operator takes a curve at a high rate of speed.

The same sensors used for stability control will be used for the curve control system. The sensors monitor the angle of the steering wheel, the wheel speed, the tilt of the vehicle and other information inputs at a rate of 100 times per second. The stability control system cuts the engine and applies the brake to each wheel if the sensors can tell the driver is veering off-course. Curve control will add another level of monitoring and will be able to stop the engine even more quickly if the system senses that the vehicle is not taking a turn as fast as the driver intends it to. Curve control will have the ability to lower the speed of an Explorer by up to 10 miles per hour in one second.

This system will come standard on every 2011 Explorer, which will be available later this year. By the year 2015, Ford plans to add curve control to 90% of is North American crossovers, SUVs, trucks and vans.

Curve control will not override the operator’s braking action, but will complement it says Ford’s manager for brake controls, Tony Rendi. When the brakes are applied by the driver, the curve control system adds even more pressure to the individual brakes that are needed in the situation. Curve control also has a faster reaction time than a driver.

Ford reports that there are more than 50,000 curve-related crashes in the U.S. Rendi said, “Something like this, we’ve all done it, and you can appreciate why you would need it.”

Ford’s chief engineer of global chassis engineering, Ali Jammoul, says that the curve control system is the first of its kind on the market. The company began working on the system about 18 months ago, and it has a patent pending on it.

Most of the cars in the U.S. have a stability control system, which will be required on every vehicle by the U.S. government by the 2012 model year. The current electronic stability control system used in Ford models was introduced in Volvo cars in 2003.

David Champion is the senior director of auto testing for Consumer Reports. He has not personally tested curve control, but has reviewed the data and believes it will be more effective than standard stability control, which has limitations, he says. It is meant to control oversteer, but is less effective at controlling understeer, when wheels remain straight when the driver wants to turn.

Champion said, “It slows the vehicle down but can’t keep the car on the course.”

Curve control was tested on a 2011 Explorer which had swung out on a curve and missed the cones at 50 miles per hour during a course test. When the curve control was engaged on the same curve, the SUV slowed rapidly in the middle of the curve and stayed within the cones.

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