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Ford's New Traction Control System Among the Best Performers

June 1, 2006

Ford began rolling out its patented traction control system last year as an option on the 2006 F-150, Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and as standard on the Lincoln Zephyr and 4x2 Lincoln Mark LT. It's yet another technology to help further the automaker's goal of safer driving. "The approach Ford has taken is unique in the industry in that we took the latest Control System Design Techniques and used them to provide a new system with excellent performance, reduced time to market and lower cost," said Craig Stephens, manager, P/T Controls, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. "These things together allow the company to make this important technology available across more of our product range." The traction control system works by momentarily decreasing engine power to help regain traction at the tires. The system is particularly helpful while accelerating on a slippery surface. Using signals from the vehicle's anti-lock brakes, a computer algorithm -- embedded in the Powertrain Control Module -- detects if the drive wheels are slipping. Then, within milliseconds, the system adjusts the engine power to allow the tires to regain traction. Ford Senior Technical Leader Davor Hrovat, an internationally recognized authority on automotive controls, invented the algorithm (a short computer program) that controls the traction control system. Hrovat's research team, facilitated by technical expert Mike Fodor, further readied the algorithm for vehicle implementation. The system is unique in that it was developed to operate using the vehicle's engine computer processor, rather than a standalone module. The team's efforts paid off with a system that works very smoothly, providing a transparent operation for drivers, said Chuck Bannon, Brake Development Supervisor, who led the application team. "While this is not the first application of traction control technology in the industry, it does represent an evolution of the technology with a level of refinement you don't see in competitive systems," he said. "Our system has a level of control and smoothness that is outstanding -- you won't find any better out there." Similar sentiments were echoed by James R. Healey in a recent USA Today article on the Ford Fusion: "Traction control on the V-6 test car was just right -- perhaps unique in all the industry," Healey wrote. "It allowed tire spin when starting forcefully on slick roads and gradually eased the spinning without trying to stop it, allowing the car to keep moving forward as traction was gained. It should be unusually effective in winter and whenever some spinning helps forward progress." The traction control system is offered in addition to Ford's AdvanceTrac® and Roll Stability Control® systems, which are standard on the Ford Explorer, Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX, Lincoln Navigator and select models of the Ford Expedition and E-series vans. These systems expand on the capabilities of traction control systems by selectively applying the vehicle's brakes to stabilize the vehicle in certain driving situations, such as a skid.
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