DEARBORN, Mich., Dec. 25, 2007 -- Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable are recognized safety leaders for many reasons. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded Taurus and Sable its "Top Safety Pick" designation for large family cars. And the two vehicles earned the maximum five-star rating in all crash test categories from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"It's like winning the Super Bowl," said Steve Kozak, a Ford Motor Company chief safety engineer, of the double honor.

So what makes the Ford safety system in the Taurus and Sable so superior? Much of the credit is due to the restraints control module, or RCM that masterfully brings the myriad of safety components together in harmony.

A car crash happens in the blink of an eye -- 300 milliseconds, or about a third of a second, from start to finish.

The RCM in the Taurus and Sable is tucked away below the console to the right of the driver. The RCM analyzes in a split-second data it receives from electronic sensors placed around the car, and then starts making decisions such as:

If necessary it signals the safety belt pretensioners to "fire," causing the safety belt to tighten around the occupant. The safety belt pretensioner's task is similar to a premium fishing rod that gives its catch just the right amount of slack so it doesn't snap the line. As the crash progresses, safety belt load limiters begin to gradually release the safety belt straps so the occupant decelerates in a more gradual way.
The RCM determines whether frontal air bags should be inflated. The air bag system uses front passenger classification sensing to determine if the seat is occupied, and if so, whether the passenger is large or small. Air bag deployment is tailored -- or altogether suppressed -- to help provide the proper level of protection.

It determines if a rollover is imminent, and if so, deploys the side curtain air bags. That side curtain air bag system, called the "Safety Canopy," has two Ford firsts:

The bags roll down like window shades while inflating. They are designed to slip between the occupant and the side window.

The Safety Canopy is designed to stay inflated for several seconds, as rollover events often take longer than frontal collisions.

Meanwhile, what Ford calls Side Protection And Cabin Enhancement (SPACE) architecture is working during a crash to reduce the risk to occupants from the outside of the cabin. SPACE is designed to protect occupants in a safety cage made up of a complex configuration of strategically placed long steel rails and square tubes under the car body, along the vertical door posts (or "B pillars"), in between the front and rear seats, and along the roof lines (or "A pillars").

The rails are designed to bend and the tubes compress in a severe crash; this creates 10 different "crush zones" all over the car that deflect the brunt of the brutal force of impact away from the occupants inside. The SPACE concept is similar to why Hollywood stunt people soften their jumps by putting cardboard boxes in the landing area that crush on impact.

Ten Ways Ford Leads in Safety

Working together, Ford's focus on safety and stringent internal performance targets have earned Ford Motor Company five Top Safety Pick awards from IIHS: Ford Edge, Ford Taurus, Lincoln MKX, Mercury Sable and Volvo XC90. Below are 10 examples of what the company is doing to make its vehicles top performers in safety.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) -- Ford Motor Company and its global brands have built 4 million vehicles globally with electronic stability control systems. Electronic stability control offers additional confidence to drivers in emergency situations by helping them stay on the road and avoid accidents. It significantly reduces crash risk by helping drivers maintain control of their vehicles during emergency maneuvers. Ford Motor Company will build all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury retail cars and trucks with standard electronic stability control (ESC) by the end of 2009. Ford already is a world leader in the technology, with ESC currently standard on all Ford mid- and full-size SUVs, and standard ESC expanded to small SUVs and all CUVs this year.

AdvanceTrac® with RSC® (Roll Stability Control) -- The only available electronic stability control system with two gyroscopic effect sensors measure vehicle motion about both the Yaw and Roll axes. More than 1 million vehicles feature Ford?s industry exclusive AdvanceTrac with RSC (Roll Stability Control). Ford Motor Company today has more than 80 patents worldwide for its innovative RSC system. RSC features roll-rate sensing and stability enhancement capability, offering assistance to the driver in maintaining vehicle control during extreme maneuvers. The system automatically engages counter measures to help the driver maintain maximum control and reduce the risk of rollover. Ford has licensed and continues to make this groundbreaking technology available to suppliers who are expected to provide it to competitive automakers.

Safety Canopy? -- Ford?s exclusive collision and rollover activated side curtain air bags feature "roll fold" technology. Ford was the first in the industry to offer rollover deploying side curtain air bags, known as Safety Canopy, beginning with the Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer in 2002. Today, Safety Canopy with rollover sensors -- which helps protect vehicle occupants during side-impact collisions and rollover accidents -- is available on nearly all Ford Motor Company SUVs, and on certain vans and cars, including the 2008 Taurus and Mercury Sable, as well as the Taurus X crossover. By the 2010 model year, all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury retail SUVs, crossovers, vans and trucks are planned to have standard Safety Canopy. Ford Motor now has nearly 1.5 million vehicles on the road with Safety Canopy rollover-activated curtains.

Ford?s BeltMinder? -- BeltMinder is a safety belt reminder technology first offered in 1999 that takes over after the initial safety belt reminder stops chiming. If the driver remains unbuckled, the system chimes and flashes a warning lamp for six seconds every 30 seconds for five minutes or until the driver buckles up, whichever comes first. Ford first offered driver-side BeltMinder at no cost to customers in 1999. Ford has licensed its BeltMinder technology to four other vehicle manufacturers at no cost. Ford?s BeltMinder system now has been expanded to cover right front-passengers in all vehicles equipped with Ford?s Personal Safety System. Data show that BeltMinder works. Research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed that safety belt use was 5 percentage points higher in vehicles with BeltMinder. It's a simple reminder that can make a great difference in saving lives.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) -- Ford's TPMS system warns a driver if one or more tires are underinflated. An active pressure sensor with a radio transmitter is mounted inside each tire. A receiver in the vehicle monitors each transmitter, and if tire pressure is not within specific limits, it will activate a visual warning light and message in vehicles equipped with a message center.

?SPACE? Architecture? -- The structure of the 2008 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable is engineered with crush zones designed to direct excess energy around the passenger compartment into a high-strength safety cage. An innovative cross-car beam ?SPACE? Architecture? under the front seats reinforces the structure between the B-pillars, which helps direct energy away from passengers.

More IIHS Top Safety Picks in 2007 Than Ever Before -- The 2008 Ford Taurus, Mercury Sable, Taurus X, Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX all earned Top Safety Picks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for achieving the highest available individual ratings in front-, side- and rear-impact crash protection. Taurus, Sable and Taurus X also earned the highest possible five-star crash test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Occupant Classification System -- An advanced air bag controller uses front passenger classification sensing to determine if the seat is occupied, and if so, whether the passenger is a larger or smaller person. Air bag deployment is tailored -- or altogether suppressed -- to help provide an appropriate level of protection.

VIRTTEX and Servo Sled -- Ford?s VIRTTEX (Virtual Test Track Experience) is one of the most advanced laboratories of its kind in the world. Since 2000, Ford Motor Company has used the controlled laboratory setting to study everyday driving tasks and how they affect driver performance during a variety of simulated driving experiences. Ford?s state-of-the-art Servo-Hydraulic Reverse Crash Simulator is the first in the world to feature the full combination of simulation capabilities: frontal crashes in both pitching and non-pitching modes, rear crashes, and side impacts in both destructive and non-destructive modes. The Servo sled accurately simulates real-world collisions by providing the same dynamics of a vehicle crash test without destroying the test device. This allows more testing in a given time period compared with other automakers, and enables Ford to more quickly bring safety features to market.

Adaptive Front Lighting -- Ford?s Adaptive Front Lighting system, already available on the Lincoln MKX, features swiveling headlights that follow the curves in the road, which are measured and analyzed using a mini-processor to optimize lighting. The headlights can swivel up to 15 degrees in each direction, and have the capacity to illuminate a longer distance when the road is winding. The angle of the headlights adjusts to variables such as vehicle load, acceleration and braking to help avoid headlights shining into oncoming road users. The headlights are cleaned by an electro-mechanical, high-pressure system that washes one headlight at a time to offer excellent illumination.