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Ford Reveals New Safety Technologies

Systems alert drowsy drivers, encourage teens to drive safely.

by on Oct.28, 2011

The Ford Explorer will get a new system designed to alert a driver falling asleep behind the wheel.

Ford Motor Co. wants to make sure you don’t fall asleep behind the wheel – something four in 10 Americans admit they have done at one time or another.

A new system designed to alert drowsy drivers is among a number of new safety technologies the maker is planning to bring to market, it revealed during a background briefing.  Other systems include one intended to encourage drivers and passengers to buckle up, while another allows parents to ensure young drivers don’t get distracted by phone calls while behind the wheel.

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The new Ford Explorer will be getting a Lane Keeping System that can warn drivers if it detects they are getting too tired to drive. More than 40% of Americans say they have fallen asleep or nodded off while driving, according to a survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

“Our engineering teams tested this technology for thousands of miles in many parts of the country to help ensure it performs on a wide range of roads with different lane markings,” said Michael Kane, vehicle engineering supervisor for Driver Assistance Technologies for Ford, who helped develop the technologies.

The system comes with three unique features designed to help drivers stay in control behind the wheel, including a Driver Alert System, which can warn drivers by flashing a coffee cup icon if it detects signs of drowsiness.

Drivers can monitor their condition on the dashboard at any time, even without receiving warnings. If they approach the yellow warning range, they should rest as soon as possible.

The system resets as soon as the driver stops and either opens the door or turns off the engine.

The new lane keeping technology also helps drivers stay in control of their vehicle if they drift out of their lane, says Raj Nair, vice president, Engineering, Ford Global Product Development.

The system uses a small forward-facing camera, mounted on the windshield behind the rearview mirror, that is able to identify lane markings on both sides of the vehicle. When the vehicle is on the move, the camera looks at the road ahead and predicts where the vehicle should be positioned relative to the lane markings.

It is designed to help drivers avoid unintentional lane changes. When the system detects the vehicle drifting close to lane markings, it will alert the driver through a vibration in the steering wheel to naturally direct the driver’s attention to where it is required.

The sensitivity of the setting can be adjusted between normal and increased, which moves the warning zones in closer to the center of the lane. The intensity of the steering wheel vibrations can be adjusted as well between low, medium and high. The last-known setting for each selection is stored so it does not have to be set each time the system is activated.

The system features must be turned on by the driver, and will stay on unless the driver turns them off. The customer chooses which feature is preferred: alert, aid or both. The systems work both day and night with low-beam headlights.

Ford also is upgrading its MyKey technology to block incoming phone calls and deter text messages while teens are behind the wheel. The “Do Not Disturb” feature, which is available on all 2011 vehicles featuring SYNC with MyFord Touch, will now be available as a feature parents can control through MyKey beginning with the new Explorer in early 2012.

When connected to SYNC, this new feature blocks incoming phone calls or text messages from a Bluetooth-paired mobile phone, diverting calls into voicemail and saving text messages on the device for viewing later. But unlike turning the phone off, drivers can still make voice-activated outgoing phone calls and the SYNC 911 Assist feature can make a call in case of emergency.

The upgraded MyKey will also permit a parent to program the vehicle so that front seat occupants must be buckled up or the audio system won’t operate.

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