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Ford Speed Limiter technology
News for Small Fleets
Ford Speed Limiter technology

According to figures published by car safety organisation Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme), 42,000 motorists die on Europe’s roads each year and in many cases, excess speed is to blame. Accidentally going too fast is not only potentially dangerous, it can also result in criminal convictions and fines.

Ford has developed clever technology to combat the problem of accidental speeding. It’s called the Ford Speed Limiter. Essentially this is an adjustable speed limiting device that is brilliantly simple yet impressively effective.

Ford engineer Alex Kaps explains: “Speed Limiter is similar to cruise control in operation. Basically it allows the driver to set a maximum speed limit anywhere between 20 and 110km/h. The big difference between Speed Limiter and cruise control is that cruise control maintains a constant speed. Speed Limiter does not. Instead, it prevents you from accelerating above a certain speed. If you take your foot off the accelerator, you slow down.”

At the core of the system is sophisticated Ford software which communicates with the engine management system. When activated, the software constantly monitors how fast the vehicle is travelling through small sensors mounted in the front wheels. As soon as the software detects that the maximum set speed has been reached, it limits the amount of fuel being delivered to the engine.

Like a regular cruise control system, Speed Limiter is operated using simple switches mounted on the left side of the steering wheel. Once the system is switched on, the maximum speed limit set is clearly displayed in the instrument cluster. The maximum speed can then be increased or decreased by pressing one of two switches and is also adjustable when on the move.

“It’s exceptionally easy to activate and to adjust,” says Kaps. “Far from complicating the driving experience, it actually makes it more relaxed. I’ll give you an example… There is a road over the River Rhine in Cologne which features a number of safety speed cameras that are spaced out over a 5 km distance. The speed limit on this stretch of road is 80km/h. If you set your maximum speed at 80km/h you don’t have to look at the speedometer constantly to adjust your speed – the Speed Limiter will ensure you don’t drive faster than this speed, so it means you can concentrate fully on the road and traffic ahead.”

He adds: “A big advantage with Ford’s Speed Limiter is that the system also has a built in override feature which allows you to go above your speed limit if you need to overtake. By pressing the accelerator to the floor, the software will temporarily disable the speed limit function so the driver can overtake, and then the system is automatically engaged again when your speed reduces back to the set limit. If you do override the system, the instrument panel display indicates you are exceeding your set limit. So with Speed Limiter the driver can still overtake if necessary, without having to turn the system off using the steering wheel controls.”

“Because Ford’s Speed Limiter is not linked to the brakes and controls speed by limiting acceleration, there are situations, for example when descending steep hills, where the vehicle might exceed the maximum speed set. If this happens a warning chime sounds and a light flashes in the cluster display.”

Ford has offered fixed speed limiters on its commercial vehicles for some time now. These cannot be adjusted because they are encrypted into the engine management system but the big advantage with this technology is that it can deliver substantial fuel savings. So does the new adjustable Speed Limiter also pay dividends at the pumps?

“In theory it can,” says Kaps. “However it is important to remember that the driver is free to drive as he or she wants. They can still accelerate hard up to their set maximum speed and they can accelerate beyond this by pressing the accelerator harder. Driving style heavily influences fuel consumption. When you reach your maximum set speed, the engine will use the bare minimum fuel needed to maintain that speed in the same way that cruise control does. It wasn’t designed to improve fuel consumption though. It’s primarily a safety feature and a comfort feature too.”

“Speed Limiter helps new Galaxy and S-MAX achieve a five star safety rating from NCAP. NCAP argues that a lot of accidents happen through people not watching their speed, and travelling too fast which is why they want manufacturers to use speed limiting technology. If this system helps prevent just one accident, it has to be a good thing.”

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