This article is part of an IEEE Spectrum special report: Top 10 Tech Cars of 2010.
The top of this year’s Ford Taurus range is the powerful and jazzy Taurus SHO (for ”super high output”), a sport sedan. Chief among the technical bragging points is an optional safety feature known as electronically scanning radar. This guardian angel scans the highway far enough ahead to save you from rear-ending a fog-shrouded forerunner while going wide enough to catch any would-be lane changer that may be lurking in your blind spot. Because its microwaves penetrate fog, it beats the older, laser-based systems.
Ford crows that the device, supplied by Delphi, is derived from a radar used in the F-22 Raptor fighter jet. Of course this sort of thing can also be done by mechanical scanning—like a dish antenna sweeping the sky—but by steering the beam electronically you get not only better performance but also a far more compact package that’s a mere 5 by 8 by 18 centimeters long. That makes it easy to fit the radar’s forward-looking part into the car’s sleek front end. Other car companies offer such radars, but Ford gets our plaudit because it charges just US $1195, far less than any competitor.
In practice, the radar functions as part of a larger system of adaptive cruise control—a-baby step along the road to automated driving. When the radar senses the hint of a threat of an impending collision, it alerts the driver and precharges the brakes, so they’ll react that much faster to the driver’s foot.
This article originally appeared in print as "Ford Taurus SHO: Ford gets its radar from a fighter plane."
To Probe Further
Check out the rest of the Top 10 Tech Cars of 2010.