The all-new 2011 Ford Explorer hasn’t been officially revealed yet, but the anticipation for the latest edition of the storied ‘ute continues to build.
Ford seems perfectly content to keep the final product under wraps while slowly releasing features the new Explorer will feature. The latest touted feature comes wrapped with the cutesy and marketable name of Curve Control.
Imagine for a moment that you are exiting a freeway at 65 mph. The exit ramp turns much more sharply than you anticipated, and you have that moment of panic when you think you might become one with the concrete wall.
That’s when Curve Control gets involved.
The technology builds on Ford’s current stability control system, using the same sensors to monitor how much the driver wants to turn versus how much the vehicle is actually turning. If the system determines the driver won’t make the turn safely, it can slow the vehicle by 10 miles per hour in a single second by cutting engine torque and applying the brakes.
My hesitation with such a system begins with the words “sensors monitor how much the driver wants to turn.”
I don’t believe any computer system can determine what a driver intends to do. I’m reminded of the story involving Acura’s Collision Mitigation Braking System, which can mistake metal plates in the road for vehicles and stop the car when it shouldn’t be stopped. In that case, the CMBS safety feature actually becomes a safety hazard.
I do applaud Ford’s commitment to safety, but I get nervous when technology attempts to take control away from drivers. A sudden deceleration and application of the brakes the driver didn’t expect can result in accidents just as easily as taking a turn too fast.
All 2011 Explorers will come equipped with Curve Control, but drivers can turn it off by switching the terrain-management system to the sand and mud functions.
Ford is going way overboard with safety features, as the Explorer will also have inflatable rear seat belts, adaptive cruise control and blind spot and cross-traffic alerts.
I think all this supposed safety technology will just lead to more complacent drivers who will develop a false sense of security while behind the wheel. Can you imagine someone learning to drive in a vehicle with these features, then switching to a vehicle without them?
With Ford’s Curve Control and Acura’s CMBS, I think safety features have gone too far. Would you agree?