DEARBORN, MI – Ford Motor Co. will launch two radar-based active-safety technologies next year, building on the adaptive cruise-control system introduced on the ’09 Lincoln MKS flagship sedan.

Collision Warning With Brake Support system will arrive first, marking “the next frontier of safety,” says Paul Mascarenas, vice president-product development-The Americas.

The system detects impending collisions and alerts drivers with an “authoritative” beep and a red warning light projected on the windshield. The system also pre-charges the brakes and engages a driver-assist feature that enables maximum braking force to be reached more quickly.

“We believe this can be one of the most important safety developments over the next five years,” Mascarenas says during a media preview here.

Citing data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Mascarenas says the system could help mitigate the 2.5 million rear-end crashes that occur annually in the U.S., incidents that account for some 40% of all reported accidents.

One additional second of warning could help prevent 90% of rear-end crashes, he adds, noting most such accidents occur when drivers are distracted or tired.

But developing the technology was not as difficult as designing an effective warning.

“We learned in testing and customer research that these systems can become annoying and set off false alarms and lead to customers ignoring them,” Mascarenas says. “So we had to put a lot of development into correctly calibrating and recognizing that all drivers are different.”

To account for varying driver preferences, the system can be programmed to deploy 1.5 or 2.5 seconds before a collision.

“A warning that one driver may consider too early and annoying, another (driver) may find it just right,” he says. “That’s why we created a system that lets drivers program (it) to their unique needs.”

If a driver fails to react to the warning and a collision occurs, pre-charged brakes, if activated, will lessen the impact, Mascarenas says. “The timing of the warning is enough to allow the driver to stop, but if the driver is late to react at least they’ll be hitting the brakes.”

The second technology set to bow next year is Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert, which uses radar modules embedded in the rear quarter-panels to detect moving objects within a 65-ft. (22-m) range from either side of the vehicle. When an object is detected, an indicator light in the side-view mirror illuminates, accompanied by an audible alert.

The system can be used to avoid accidents that occur while backing out of parking spaces in crowded lots, or when drivers change lanes without looking, Ford says.

Ford’s radar-based BLIS differs from the camera-based system already in use by Ford’s Volvo Cars subsidiary.

Both BLIS and Collision Warning With Brake Support will debut next year on ’10 model-year vehicles. Ford declines to reveal which vehicles will first offer the systems, although Mascarenas says it is “safe to assume” the MKS will benefit.

bpope@wardsauto.com