“We’ve built one of the most comprehensive safety and security
packages available into the new Explorer. Safety leadership drove
our vehicle development efforts because we know that owners of SUVs
are not immune to the hazards we all face on the road every day.
There is no mistaking that SUVs require different driving skills and
techniques than cars. We’ve looked at the most threatening driving
conditions and situations and developed new technologies to help
further improve protection for our SUV drivers and their
– Helen Petrauskas, Ford Motor Company Vice President,
Environmental and Safety Engineering
- All-new Safety Canopy system, which consists of
industry-first side-impact curtain air bags (available from launch)
and rollover protection (available later in 2001)
- New AdvanceTrac interactive vehicle dynamics
system – the first application on a truck or SUV – combines the
benefits of traction control and electronic stability (yaw) control
(available later in 2001)
- Ford Personal Safety System, including driver and
passenger dual-stage air bags with tailored deployment
characteristics (available later in 2001)
- Passenger seat-weight sensor detects objects or
occupants and deactivates air bags when necessary
- New pretensioners and energy-management retractors make
safety belts even more effective
- BeltMinder system helps remind drivers to buckle up
- Child safety seat attachments help ensure proper child
seat attachment in second and third rows
- Lower front bumper enhances SUV compatibility with other
vehicles on the road
- New patented ControlSlip rear driveshaft helps manage
energy during frontal impacts
- SecuriLockTM passive anti-theft system helps deter
In addition, to being the best-selling SUV in the world, the
2002-model Explorer will be one of the first sport utility vehicles
on the market with such technically advanced safety features as
head-and-chest side-impact curtain air bags, rollover sensors,
AdvanceTrac interactive vehicle dynamics and a patented
ControlSlip rear driveshaft that helps manage energy during frontal
Added to these firsts are Ford’s AdvanceTrac interactive
vehicle dynamics, improved safety belts, child seat tethers and a
lower front bumper that is on par with many passenger cars, to
enhance SUV-to-car compatibility.
Many of the new features will be available at vehicle
introduction in early 2001. Some of the very new technologies –
including rollover sensors, AdvanceTrac and front dual-stage
air bags that deploy based on the severity of the crash, safety belt
usage and driver seat position – are being phased into production
and will be available later in the year.
The Safety Canopy
Safety Canopy is the name given to the combination of the new
head-and-chest side-impact curtain air bag system (available at
launch) plus the new rollover sensors (available later in 2001).
The Safety Canopy provides one of the most advanced side-impact
protection systems available on any SUV in the industry.
Although rollovers represent only a small percentage of all SUV
accidents, they can have fatal consequences, particularly when a
passenger is ejected from the vehicle. Approximately half of all
SUV fatalities involve a rollover. During these types of accidents,
occupants thrown from the vehicle are up to 10 times as likely to be
killed or seriously hurt than occupants who remain inside.
Safety belts are the single best tool for keeping passengers
inside during a rollover, but the new air bags and rollover-sensing
technology supply another line of defense.
“Ford scientists and engineers have been working hard to provide
our SUV customers with more potentially lifesaving features.
Continuous improvements planned for Explorer clearly demonstrate
this commitment,” says Petrauskas.
Explorer is Ford’s first SUV with new side-curtain air bags.
They are air bags that deploy from the headliner across
approximately 75 percent of the side glass area to help protect
first- and second-row occupants in the outboard seating positions
during a side-impact collision. The optional head-and-chest
side-curtain air bags are tethered at the front and rear.
The side-curtain air bags are triggered independently of each
other and from the driver and passenger front air bags. They deploy
within 25 milliseconds and fully inflate within 15 milliseconds.
Sensors located at the base of the B- and C-pillar area trigger the
“We chose this design because it provides significantly enhanced
protection to passengers in the first and second rows,” says
Stephanie Sweeney, Supervisor of Crash Testing. “Other mounting
positions or sausage-shaped bag designs could have left some areas
The electronic rollover sensors – which will be added to Explorer
later in 2001 – provide additional protection by measuring whether
the vehicle is tilting, how fast the lean angle is changing and
whether the combination means the vehicle is headed for a rollover.
If a rollover situation is determined by the system, it deploys
the head-and-chest side-curtain air bags to help protect passengers
in the two front rows – and help keep them inside – until the
vehicle comes to a complete stop. The air bags remain inflated for
up to 6 seconds – far longer than conventional air bags – to provide
additional occupant protection. The location of the air bags and
the physics of the deployment decreases the risk of injury to
Personal Safety System
Explorer also will include Ford’s Personal Safety System later in
The system combines: dual-stage front air bags that deploy based on
crash severity; sensors to detect if front-seat occupants are
wearing safety belts; driver’s seat position sensor; safety-belt
pretensioners and load-limiting retractors.
Second-generation front air bags are standard for the driver and
passenger, safety belt pretensioners and load-limiting retractors
will be available at launch. Later in 2001, the complete Personal
Safety System – with dual-stage air bags and safety belt sensors –
will be added.
The fully integrated, computer-driven Personal Safety System
includes nearly a dozen technologically advanced components that
cannot be seen by customers. The system, in short, “thinks” about
and responds to different accident conditions by deploying the
vehicle’s occupant protection systems to match those conditions.
A collection of sensors feeds information back to the vehicle’s
Restraints Control Module – the “brain” of the system. The module
takes into account the driver’s seating position, driver and
front-seat occupant’s safety belt usage and accident severity before
deploying appropriate safety technologies during frontal
For example, the system’s passenger seat-weight sensing
technology detects certain objects or occupants and turns off the
The sensor technology was specifically designed to help reduce
injuries that can result when people seat young children in the
passenger seat contrary to proper child-seating recommendations.
Small children should always be seated in proper supplemental safety
seats in the rear seat.
At the same time, the “brain” activates a specific level of air
bag protection for front seat occupants – after determining if air
bag deployment is necessary at all.
The dual-stage air bags offer two energy levels to inflate
deploying air bags in a manner that corresponds to accident
severity. A lower, less forceful energy level provides occupant
protection for more common, moderate-severity impacts. Deployment
with higher energy levels is required for more severe crash events.
The system also employs pretensioners that tighten the front
safety belts and help prevent belted occupants from sliding and
bouncing around during a crash.
If crash forces rise to severe levels, a metal bar tucked in the
center of the spool of the safety belt retractor – called an energy
management retractor – twists like a wrung-out washcloth. Such
action releases small amounts of safety belt webbing in a controlled
manner and helps reduce the risk of force-related injuries,
especially to the occupant’s chest.
Ford researchers anticipate the new Personal Safety System will
significantly reduce the rate of air bag deployments for occupants
who are wearing their safety belts during accidents.
The system is designed to help further reduce front seat
occupants’ risk of air bag-related injuries, as well as cut air bag
replacement repair bills.
In addition to the Personal Safety System, top tether child
safety seat attachments are provided in all second-row and third-row
seating positions. The tethers provide an easier method of securing
a child safety seat. Tethers are firmly connected to the vehicle’s
floor pan – rather than the seat.
Rigid metal anchor attachments located in the seat bite (where
the seat back and seat cushion meet) are provided in the outboard
positions of the second and third rows. Advanced child safety seats
can be attached to the anchors.
Because safety belts are the best defense in preventing injury in
the event of a crash, Explorer has Ford’s new BeltMinderTM system,
which provides the driver with a gentle reminder to buckle up once
the vehicle is moving. A chime sounds and a red light flashes on
the instrument panel.
Later in 2001, Explorer’s manually adjustable lap belt in the
rear seat middle position will be replaced with a three-point
AdvanceTrac Interactive Vehicle Dynamics
Explorer will be available with AdvanceTrac – a
computer-driven interactive vehicle dynamics system – later in 2001.
It is the first Ford SUV available with such technology. The system
enhances stability in extreme driving conditions when drivers
misjudge speed or road conditions. (For details, see Driving
ControlSlip Rear Driveshaft
Four-wheel-drive Explorer models are equipped with a patented new
ControlSlip rear driveshaft. In the event of a frontal impact, the
driveshaft is designed to telescope, not buckle. This movement
helps the vehicle further absorb impact forces and manage
In addition, the driveshaft is thinner than the previous shaft
and contributes a 3.5-pound weight savings.
Safety All Around
Official government crash data will not be available until
sometime in 2001. Nevertheless, in full frontal impacts, Explorer
is expected to be among the safest SUVs on the road – based on
extensive internal testing.
Ford’s computer capabilities – the largest among any private company
– allowed engineers to perform extensive simulated crash testing,
complete with electronic dummies, to refine the vehicle’s safety
systems. Advanced modeling of the performance of every aspect of
Explorer’s crash performance was conducted on computers before it
made its first collision with a barrier in the crash laboratory.
The benefit of this sophistication is engineers’ ability to fine
tune each element of the Explorer safety system for outstanding
performance should the need for crash protection ever arise.
The front portion of Explorer’s frame includes precisely
engineered crush zones, which buckle and dissipate energy in a
frontal impact. The fully boxed frame is 350-percent stiffer
throughout, which provides further improved side-impact protection.
Steel beams in the doors also help to prevent intrusion during side
At the same time, the design team made Explorer more friendly to
other vehicles on the road by lowering its bumper beam height 65
millimeters – more than 2 inches – to be on par with many passenger
“Our bumper beam height is almost identical to a Taurus’,” says
To accomplish this, Explorer engineers essentially inverted the
frame. The triangular frames typically are designed with straight
upper beams and diagonal lower beams that rise upward toward the
bumper where the two meet.
The new design consists of diagonal top beams that trace downward
to meet straight lower beams, thus creating the lower overall
height. Special reinforcements were added to maintain structural
The new bumper design will help to reduce damage to cars in
common slow-speed incidents and allow lower vehicles’
energy-absorbing bumpers to do their work.
Security Features offer Better Peace of Mind
Explorer is built with Ford’s SecuriLock passive anti-theft
key system, which helps deter would-be thieves. A chip inside the
key communicates with the vehicle’s electronics. Unless the
authorized key is used, the vehicle will not start.
In normal operation, as soon as the authorized driver begins
moving the vehicle, all the doors “autolock” for added
peace-of-mind. Child locks are standard on the rear doors, for
Inside the vehicle, extra security includes two under-floor bins
in the five-seat model – one in the seven-seat configuration – which
allow valuables to be stored and kept out of sight. A horizontal
shade is available to hide the cargo area contents. Tinted privacy
glass deters prying eyes.
The vehicle’s air bags were redesigned to be more difficult to
steal. Even the spare tire winch is now inside the rear cargo
hatch, so the full-size spare tire is better protected from theft.
The vehicle also features perimeter lighting. Lights hidden on
the underside of the side-view mirrors illuminate when the “unlock”
button on the key fob is pushed or when the door handle is pulled.
The lights illuminate the entire door area of the vehicle – to light
the way for entry or to spotlight any potential danger waiting or
lying under or near the vehicle.