Ford's upcoming 2011 Explorer SUV will feature the industry's first inflatable rear seat belt, but that's not the only new technology that will be debuted with the new model. Curve Control is a driver aid system that is designed to help a driver to maintain control of a vehicle when entering a curve--such as a freeway off-ramp--with too much speed. Wait. How, exactly, is that different from regular stability control?
Here's how the new system works: as the vehicle enters a turn, Curve Control measures the driver's steering input and the speed of that input. Concurrently, the Ford AdvanceTrac with RSC (Roll Stability Control) system's sensors are also measuring roll rate, yaw rate, lateral acceleration, and wheel speed and running calculations based on those inputs 100 times every second. Using this data, Curve Control can detect whether the driver has entered the turn at too high a speed, resulting in understeer. The system then applies braking pressure and reduces torque, slowing the vehicle by as much as 10mph within the first second, pulling the vehicle's trajectory back in line with the driver's intended path. Ford claims that the system works equally well in wet or dry conditions and that its implementation should help prevent some of the approximately 50,000 crashes on curves each year in the U.S. alone.
This is still all sounding like standard fare stability control to us, but Ford's press release says that the patent-pending system is different in that it measures how quickly the vehicle is turning and compares that to how quickly the driver is trying to turn and responds by applying "the precise amount of braking required on each wheel to enhance the individual wheel braking of the traditional stability control system."
It seems to us that Curve Control may just be a nice bullet point term that makes a progressive improvement to a stability control system seem like a wholly new and unique feature to Ford vehicles. More importantly, however, we're fans of making the highways and the vehicles that navigate them safer. As long as the system keeps drivers from plowing through guard rails, we don't care what it's called. The Curve Control feature will be standard on the 2011 Ford Explorer when it debuts later this year. Ford has designs to make the system available on 90 percent of its North American crossovers, sport utilities, trucks, and vans by 2015.