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2011 Ford Explorer set to debut new curve-control technology

Tue, 29 Jun 2010

During our first test drive, Dave Messih speeds around a curve at 50 mph. His foot never touches the brake, and the 2011 Ford Explorer prototype we're in knocks down a barrier of safety cones.

OK, that's fun. But what's the point? Messih, a Ford engineer, is demonstrating the capability of a new technology called curve control, set to debut in the much-anticipated redone SUV later this year.

based on Ford's traditional stability-control system. It measures how quickly the vehicle is turning and compares that with how quickly the driver is trying to turn. The system activates when the driver steers more than the vehicle turns.

“The main intent [of the curve control] is to reduce the vehicle speed to help you stay inside the intended path,” said Messih, the supervisor for brake-control algorithms and part of the engineering team behind curve control.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology, Messih takes the SUV around the same curve, at the same speed, using the same maneuvers. This time, however, he switches on the curve control.

While the turn is still tight, it feels significantly more contained. We stay on our intended path and no safety cones are harmed. By reducing engine torque, the technology is able to slow the vehicle by up to 10 mph in a single second. Messih estimates that the system slowed our ride by 15 mph to 20 mph.

“You realize I didn't have my foot on the brake that time around, right?” Messih asks. “That was all the curve control.”

While still at the wheel of the Explorer prototype, he explained how consumers will feel the technology but not feel intruded on during driving.

“It's pretty quick, but I wouldn't call it alarming,” Messih said. “We tried to design it so it wouldn't be so aggressive as to alarm people, but it would still be aggressive enough [to work].”

Curve control will roll out as standard on 90 percent of Ford's North American crossovers, sport utilities, trucks and vans by 2015.

And no worries, off-roaders: Curve control is turned off when the terrain-management system is set to the sand and mud functions.

By Izzi Bendall