DETROIT -- The redesigned 2011 Ford Explorer will have another layer of safety equipment when it goes on sale this year.
Ford Motor Co. said it will use the new Explorer to introduce “curve control” -- an enhancement of electronic stability control that is activated if a driver tries to maneuver a turn too fast.
With curve control, sensors determine whether a vehicle is entering a turn too quickly. If so, the system applies the brakes to reduce a vehicle’s speed by up to 10 mph within one second, while allowing the car to continue on its intended path.
After reviewing federal crash data, Ford safety experts determined that more than 50,000 accidents occur each year in the United States on tight curves, such as freeway ramps.
“Too many accidents stem from drivers misjudging their speed going into curves and freeway off- and on-ramps,” Sue Cischke, Ford’s group vice president for sustainability, environment and safety engineering, said in a statement.
Ford said the system -- an extension of electronic stability control systems -- will work on dry or wet pavement.
Under stability control, sensors monitor a vehicle’s steering wheel angle, wheel speed, tilt and other factors to avert a spinout or rollover by reducing power and applying the brakes on individual wheels as needed.
When Curve Control is added, the system measures how quickly the vehicle is turning and compares that to how quickly the driver is trying to turn. When the vehicle is not turning as much as the driver is steering -- known as “pushing” -- curve control is engaged and applies the precise amount of braking required on each wheel to enhance the individual wheel braking of the traditional stability control system, Ford said in a statement.
Ford said the system will be standard on the new Explorer and will become available on 90 percent of its crossovers, SUVs, trucks and vans sold in the United States within five years.
All vehicles are required by federal regulators to have electronic stability control beginning with the 2012 model year. The law was prompted in large part by an increase in rollover accidents that paralleled the popularity of SUVs in the 1990s.
In 2000, the federal government also discovered an unusually high number of blowouts -- many of them leading to rollovers -- on Explorers equipped with Firestone tires. Ford recalled the vehicles to replace the tires, and Congress and regulators responded with another wave of safety requirements, such as tire pressure monitoring devices.
According to a 2004 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study, freeway ramps “are the sites of far more crashes per miles driven than other segments of interstate highways.” Vehicle speed was noted as a “primary crash contributor” in more than 1,100 urban freeway interchange crashes studied.
About half of those interchange crashes occurred when drivers were exiting interstates, and 36 percent occurred when drivers were entering interstates, the study found.