Stop Skids In Their Tracks

The 2015 Ford Focus keeps you from losing control on the road

2015 Ford Focus

Engine: 3 or 4 cylinder
Horsepower: 123 or 160
Fuel: Economy up to 27 city, 37 highway
Price: $17,170
Courtesy Ford

There’s nothing quite like the sinking feeling you get when a car starts to skid. First comes the realization that your vehicle is not going where you want. Then, panic, as you desperately try to remember that driver’s ed course (are you under- or over-steering?). Hopefully, you lay off the gas and brakes, and steer into the skid. Or you could use Ford’s new Enhanced Transitional Stability System (ETS).

Available in the 2015 Ford Focus, ETS predicts skids before they start. The system monitors a car’s speed, steering wheel, and how a driver is turning, and it calculates the likelihood of a skid. If a loss of traction appears imminent, electronic stability control kicks in. While ETS is currently available in just one model, it’s only a matter of time before Ford integrates it into others--and before competitors start doing the same. After all, a safer car is something that just about any driver would welcome.

Other Car News You Should Care About

  1. Single-speed EV transmissions will give way to two-speed units within 5 to 6 years, according to German supplier ZF. As with gas-powered cars, adding more gears to electric motors will make them more efficient, extending their range by up to 20 percent.

  2. The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to reduce the federal ozone standard for cars, power plants, and oil refineries from 75 parts per billion to between 65 and 70--a move it calculates will prevent between 710 and 4,700 premature deaths per year by 2025.

  3. From January through November 2014, the average fuel economy for new light vehicles sold in the United States was 25.1 miles per gallon, according to trade publication Wards Auto. That represents a year-over-year increase of 1.8 percent, the first in four years.

  4. Alcoa, the U.S. aluminum group, developed a new manufacturing process that makes it easier to create lightweight aluminum body panels for vehicles. The process changes the metal at the molecular level, making it 40 percent more formable.

13: The number of hydrogen fueling stations in the United States. That number is projected to increase to 50 by 2017 as automakers work to bring fuel-cell vehicles to market.

Design Of The Month: The Audi Prologue Concept

Audi Prologue Concept

Courtesy Audi

The interior of the Audi Prologue Concept is an homage to a world without buttons. Instead of the usual array of dials found on most dashboards, the Audi has three touch screens. There are no physical controls. The flexible OLED screen on the center console also actively bends toward the driver for easy access.

This article was originally published in the March 2015 issue of Popular Science, under the title "Stop Skids in Their Tracks."