The car world according to Darwin.  Since the Ford Taurus made a comeback in 2010, Ford engineers have been working harder than an air traffic controller at La Guardia.  They have been experimenting with radar to avoid the immenent threat of a head-on collision. 

Here is what George Mone of the magazine, Wired, has to say.  “Heading south on the New Jersey Turnpike, Ford Motor Company engineer Jerry Engelmen swings his 2010 Ford Taurus into the left lane to pass a semi.  The Taurus hesitates, slowing down, and then Engelman adjusts his heading.  The car takes off. 

“Larry,” he calls to his colleague in the back seat, “write that down!” 

Engelman is driving, but just barely.  The Taurus has a radar-based adaptive cruise-control system that lets him set a top speed and then simply steer while the car adjusts its velocity according to traffic.  He’s been weaving and changing lanes, doing between 45 and 70 mph- and hasn’t touched a pedal in an hour.” 

Since 2007-8, Ford engineers have been working on this particular system.  They have logged over 60,000 miles a year on a few test cars with the adaptive cruise-control system.  This tech has been around for a while.  Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo have all offered this technology since, at least, 2004.  But now its afforable.  Ford now offers the system standard on the Taurus SE model, and hopefully will be putting it in the Super Duty line of trucks by 2013.  The system is similar to the one used in small private planes (such as a Cessna 172).  

The system works by projecting radar beams forward and sideways to look for anything that could cause an accident.  It emits pings, which warn the driver, and tell the cruise-control box that there is a potential hazard ahead.  The radar’s reach is as wide as three Taurus’ put exactly side to side.  On a ten-lane highway, the car will be actively looking at three or four of the lanes on each side.   If there is an immenent collision, the car tightens the seatbelts, warns you, and primes the brakes. 

Engelman says that the production version is pretty much flawless.  Good.  Imagine me driving a Taurus SHO down a quiet country road (of course, I am NOT speeding), and all of a sudden, there’s a dump truck pulling out of a driveway.  I’d probably stop short, thanks to the quick reaction of my radar assisted cruise-control.  But my best guess is that I’d have a seatbelt-shaped bruise across my chest!  I think that I’ll probably be getting the Taurus as my first car, when I’m 16 because my mom thinks that teenage boys plus gas pedals equals disaster!  Whatever.  Call it new math.

Darwin would be proud of the system.

5 thoughts on “Survival of the adaptive

  1. When you do start driving, we will make sure that the car you drive had adaptive technology programmed to go 25 mph! Thanks for the informative post. I hadn’t realized that the technology was so advanced.

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