2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Blindspotting
October 25, 2011
Our Explorer has a number of safety features, including a Blind Spot Information System -- BLIS for short. BLIS uses radar technology to scan the road for vehicles in the adjacent lane and illuminates an amber light in the sideview mirror to let you know that there's a vehicle lurking in your blind spot. BLIS can also sense traffic approaching when you're slowly backing out of parking spot, Ford says.
I'm of two minds about blind-spot systems, which I've experienced in other cars recently. It's good to have technology to backstop a driver's usual practice of looking over her shoulder to see if there's anything in the blind spot. But if you're driving in any amount of traffic, the light is blinking every few seconds. It's annoying, particularly if you're planted in a lane with no intention of changing. As in many cars, you can disable the system in the Explorer if it gets too annoying. But it will resume with your next drive.
The real problem with a system like this is that it can become a substitute for actually turning your head. A Ford brochure, sadly, reinforces the idea that it's just darned inconvenient to take a look. It says: "Stop craning your neck trying to see what's in your blind spots."
The Explorer's manual, which Ford lawyers have undoubtedly vetted to a fare-thee-well, says just the opposite: "To avoid injuries, NEVER use the BLIS as a replacement for using the side and rear view mirrors and looking over your shoulder before changing lanes." BLIS is just a helper, not "a replacement for careful driving," the manual warns.
There's this bit of info, too: BLIS can produce "false alerts." Ford says the system sometimes goes off when there's no vehicle in the blind zone. BLIS could be triggered by a guardrail, a freeway concrete wall or by a sharp turn around a pole or building. "False alerts are temporary and self correct," according to the manual.
In many years of driving, I haven't yet mistaken a guardrail for a car. So I'm going to stick with a glance over my shoulder before I change lanes. How about you?
Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @3,412 miles