A form of artificial intelligence underpins a system in the ʼ19 Ford Edge called all-wheel-drive disconnect, which can determine in a fraction of a second when to shift between 2-wheel-drive and AWD, the automaker says.
Responding quicker than the human brain, the feature provides all-wheel-drive traction without input from the driver when it is needed, and helps conserve fuel when it is not, Ford says in a news release.
The electronic system receives inputs from dozens of sensors throughout the Edge. It interacts with the traction-control system to detect wheel slip by receiving inputs from the antilock brakes to learn if that system is active. It even detects if the windshield wipers are on, whether the Edge is towing a trailer, and the outside temperature.
An algorithm using so-called “fuzzy logic” constantly processes all the data to determine if all-wheel or front-wheel drive are optimal. The system can detect in 10 milliseconds whether to engage or disengage all-wheel drive, Ford says. It can quickly distribute up to 100% of the available power from the front to the rear wheels, depending on driving conditions detected by the system.
“The concept is pretty simple,” says Scott Beiring, Ford driveline applications supervisor. “It was the execution that was the challenge. Shifting between 2- and all-wheel drive needs to be fast and seamless enough that the customer doesn’t know it is happening.
“‘Fuzzy logic’ refers to the algorithm,” he says. “It’s like you or I determining what to wear based on reading a weather forecast, where we’re going, the time of year and looking outside. In the case of the new Edge, just because the windshield wipers are on doesn’t mean all-wheel drive is going to engage. The algorithm makes the call based on a variety of things that are happening – but much faster than a person could process.
“The fact that we’re able to switch seamlessly and without any input from the driver, that’s the real magic,” Beiring says.
All-wheel-drive disconnect contributes to the ’19 Edge’s improved fuel economy, Ford says. Vehicles equipped with all-wheel drive have EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 21 mpg (11.2 L/100 km) city/28 mpg (8.4 L/100 km) highway/23 mpg (10.2 L/100 km) combined. Front-wheel drive vehicles carry estimated fuel-economy ratings of 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km) city/29 mpg (8.1 L/100 km) highway/25 mpg (9.4 L/100 km) combined.
The new Edge and Edge ST are due to reach showrooms later this month.