Brentwood, England – Ford is taking additional steps to make towing a caravan or trailer safer for motorists in Europe.
Ford has expanded its innovative Trailer Sway Control technology – which was first introduced on the Kuga – to Focus, C-MAX and Grand C-MAX models. The company also said it will offer the technology on its upcoming redesigned Ranger due out later in 2011 and on the next-generation Kuga, scheduled for a 2012 launch.
While towing is popular with millions of European drivers, especially during the peak holiday months of July and August, it can also pose a danger. “Trailer sway” – a phenomenon where the trailer swings from side to side and compromises vehicle control – can be a cause of accidents for vehicles which are towing.
“For the inexperienced, towing can be a daunting experience,” said Guy Mathot, supervisor, ESC and Handling, Ford of Europe. “You have to adapt your driving technique and pay attention to your speed, but even then, weather conditions or the actions of other road users can sometimes lead to trouble. For such cases we have developed Ford’s Trailer Sway Control technology to assist the driver.”
While technology provides an added layer of security, it’s not a substitute for drivers displaying caution when towing. Excessive speed, poorly distributed loads and improperly inflated tyres can all negatively influence the trailer stability. Weather conditions such as slick roads and crosswinds are also factors.
“Once the trailer starts to sway, it can very quickly escalate and – unless the appropriate actions are taken – cause a loss of control,” Mathot said. “If you are driving above a certain speed, the swaying can increase.
“We are rolling Trailer Sway Control out on a lot of our new vehicle lines. It is part of the Electronic Stability Control system and uses information from the ESC sensors – such as yaw, acceleration and steering angle. The ESC system monitors these parameters anyway, so it makes sense that we should use this information to look out for and react to trailer sway as well.”
Trailer Sway Control continuously monitors the yaw rate of the vehicle and compares this to the steering angle. If swaying is detected without appropriate driver input, the vehicle is designed to react accordingly to correct the instability.
“If it detects a situation where it needs to intervene, Trailer Sway Control is designed to make brake and engine interventions based upon the sway severity and lateral movements caused,” Mathot said.
For moderate sway, the front brakes will engage in a left-right alternating pattern to generate a yaw movement in the vehicle that counteracts the trailer sway. For more severe sway, engine torque is reduced to zero and brake pressures are applied to all four wheels in order to reduce the vehicle’s speed below the trailer’s critical speed.