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Rollover Technology Available On 2004 SUVs

DETROIT December 10, 2003; Sharon Silke Carty writing for Dow Jones reported that in an ongoing effort to drive home the message that its products are safe, Ford Motor Co. announced Wednesday it will begin offering new technology to keep its sport utility vehicles from rolling over.

The new technology, called Roll Stability Control, will be available as on option for the 2004 Lincoln Aviator and Lincoln Navigator SUVs. The technology will be available on Ford Explorer, Ford Expedition and Mercury Mountaineer models in 2005.

A recent study published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that mid-sized SUVs are nine times more likely to be involved in a fatal rollover accident and twice as likely to cause a fatality to the occupants of other vehicles.

Ford's technology has been in development for more than three years, said Todd Brown, who led the brakes and chassis controls engineering team that developed the roll-stabilizing equipment for the company.

"There's no one system that can completely eliminate rollover," he said. "But you can develop technology that takes a number of factors into consideration."

Ford's product goes beyond others already on the market by monitoring two planes of car motion, Brown said. Most products just monitor yaw, or skidding. Ford's system watches that, and also keeps an eye on body roll, or the side-to- side lean of the SUV. If the sensors indicate a rollover is likely, the technology will cut down engine torque and selectively apply the brakes.

Brown said the company worked hard to provide a system that doesn't take control away from the driver.

Other safety features will be available on the SUVs, including dual-stage front airbags, side curtain airbag systems and a seatbelt reminder chime.

About one fourth of all vehicles sold in the U.S. are SUVs, according to industry estimates, and more than 10,000 people died in rollover accidents in 2002. That's up 5% from 2001.

SUV rollovers were a high-profile issue in 2000, after the recall of Firestone tires which were linked to deadly highway accidents. Many of those accidents, involving the Ford Explorer, wer