DEARBORN – Ford customers, more than ever, are buying vehicles with advanced driver-assistance systems. Ford’s radar-based technologies that help alert drivers of potentially dangerous situations are being purchased at rates sometimes approaching double or triple what was anticipated.
“Today’s customers are extremely informed about technology and advanced features available in vehicles,” said Sue Cischke, group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering. “They have an incredible amount of access to information, and we’re responding to their interest by offering vehicles with the technologies they want.”
Overall, approximately 320,000 radar systems – such as Blind Spot Information System (BLIS®) and collision warning with brake support – have been purchased by Ford customers across the 2010 and 2011 vehicle lineup. For example, nearly 30,000 BLIS packages were sold on 2011 Ford Explorers. The customer take rate was almost three times higher than anticipated.
An extra set of eyes
BLIS employs sensors on the outboard rear quarter panels that help monitor the traditional blind spot area. The system can notify the driver with a warning indicator light on the corresponding side mirror if the sensors detect a vehicle in the blind spot.
Increased interest in smart features by customers goes hand in hand with increased focus by Ford Motor Company on delivering technologies that can help drivers avoid a crash, and is shifting the discussion from one of crash worthiness to one of helping drivers avoid crashes.
The adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support integrated system, for example, allows the driver to set vehicle speed and maintain it without using the accelerator. Radar sensors detect moving vehicles ahead and warn the driver of collision risks. On the 2011 Ford Edge, almost 10,000 systems have been sold, about twice what was projected.
Research indicates such forward collision warning technologies could help in warning a driver who is distracted or drowsy. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the majority of accidents involve driver inattention. The agency’s research found one extra second of warning could prevent up to 90 percent of rear-end collisions.
“Customers are embracing the suite of available driver-assist technologies found throughout the Ford lineup,” said Amy Marentic, Ford group marketing manager. “Ford vehicles deliver a comprehensive technology story from bumper to bumper.”
Seal of approval
At the same time, tougher government standards are raising the bar on safety.
The New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) testing conducted by NHTSA includes tough frontal and side impact tests, an added rigid pole side impact test and a rollover resistance rating. And, for the first time, the program provides customers with a single overall safety score per vehicle. The program also includes more information about new advanced crash avoidance technologies, such as forward collision warning systems.
The 2011 Ford Explorer and Edge were the first mainstream vehicles that have had their forward collision warning systems recognized by NHTSA as a “Recommended Technology” under its new rating program that began with 2011 model year vehicles. The results are posted at the agency’s website, www.safercar.gov.
On Ford vehicles, the radar-based system is the basis for collision warning with brake support technology, designed to detect the relative position of other vehicles and warn the driver with a combination of visual and audio alerts. This technology will be expanded to include more Ford and Lincoln vehicles in the U.S. and overseas.
“Traditionally, such a technology might only be found on more expensive models,” said Rebecca Seiler, product engineer, Global Driver Assistance and Active Safety. “Ford has a goal of making these types of technologies available on a broad range of models.”
Collaboration among the company’s research, production and vehicle engineering teams allowed Ford to quickly enhance collision warning with brake support from a radar-only system.
“It’s been very exciting to be involved in a project that is on the leading edge of technology and was developed quickly to respond to customer needs,” said Seiler.