It used to be that safety innovations were pioneered on cars like the Mercedes Benz S-Class or the BMW 7 Series. Occasionally, Volvo or Saab would scoop the luxury manufacturers, but safety innovations aren’t generally associated with U.S. auto manufacturers. Ford is looking to change that, and is going to some great lengths to let the automotive press know about it.
The 2011 Ford Explorer will feature the industry’s first inflatable rear seat belts, which will distribute the crash force over a larger portion of the passenger’s upper body. The seat belt airbags will also provide support for the occupant’s head and neck, minimizing crash related injuries for rear seat passengers. The inflatable seat belt can be used in conjunction with child safety seats, so it is designed to protect occupants of all sizes. As an added benefit, the belt is thicker and more padded than a conventional seat belt, making it comfortable for daily use.
The 2011 Explorer will also have active crash avoidance technologies, such as Collision Warning with Brake Support technology. This radar based system detects a pending collision and helps drivers brake more aggressively. Once the driver releases the accelerator, Brake Support applies a nominal amount of braking before the driver has the chance to react, reducing stopping distances and lessening the chance (or severity) of impact.
Other safety features will be used on the 2011 Explorer, but have been pioneered on existing Ford vehicles. Blind Spot Information System (called, appropriately, BLIS) and Cross Traffic Alert use radar proximity sensors located in the rear quarter panels. BLIS detects vehicles that are traveling in a driver’s blind spot, and displays a warning symbol in the driver’s side view mirror. Cross Traffic Alert uses the same sensors to detect oncoming traffic within 65 feet when a driver is backing out of a parking space. If a car is detected, a tone sounds and a warning is displayed in the appropriate side view mirror.
One of my favorite innovation is Ford’s MyKey system, which allows owners to set limits for other (read: teen) drivers who may be using the vehicle. Want to set a maximum speed limit of 80 miles per hour? MyKey allows you to do that. Want a warning tone when another driver exceeds 60 miles per hour? MyKey can be programmed to do that. Want to limit the audio volume so your new driver can actually hear the police car that’s been behind him for five miles? MyKey can do that, too. It will also give you a reminder to use seat belts by a displayed message, audible tone and muted stereo. If your new driver wants tunes, they need to wear a set belt to get them. Want to make sure your teen driver isn’t practicing brake stand launches in your new Taurus SHO? MyKey can be programmed to leave the traction control on at all times.
I’ll have more information on the new 2011 Ford Explorer in the very near future. Ford won’t tell us exactly when, but I’d be checking back daily for updates between July 22 and July 26 if I was a betting man.