Even though the range-topping Ranger Raptor misses out on autonomous emergency braking, Ford's team responsible for developing the model locally says driver safety is top of its priorities list.
After exclusively revealing it won't offer autonomous emergency braking on the Ranger Raptor last week, Ford has confirmed it's working on the technology, but faced technical challenges too steep to climb by the model's launch.
The all-new Ranger Raptor (and the entire Ranger line-up) will pick up autonomous emergency braking (AEB) eventually – and the system won't be a drag or affect its off-road abilities, according to the local engineering team.
Speaking with CarAdvice at the launch of the Ranger Raptor this week in Darwin, vice president of product development for Ford Asia Pacific, Trevor Worthington, said the company made a conscious effort to prioritise volume sellers in the technology's rollout.
"Vehicles are very, very complex and our view was – just given how AEB became just such an important deal – we wanted to get AEB on the greatest number of Rangers that we could sell," Worthington explained.
"So, we focused on the vehicles that contribute the most in terms of their share. The good news is about 70 to 80 per cent of Rangers that we sell from the new model onwards will have AEB," he elaborated.
"The other derivatives that are smaller in total volume and have a level of uniqueness that meant that they needed a unique solution are the ones that are going to come next. So, we're working on them. They're on their way."
When quizzed about the specific challenges, Worthington used his best autonomous answer-avoidance technology, coming across a bit vague in the process.
"If you look in front of a Ranger Raptor, and in front of a regular 2018 Ranger, you'd see that there's a number of differences around the physical structure," he argued.
"So that means the mounting of equipment. It really comes down just to the uniqueness of particularly the Ranger Raptor relative to others in the line. We're working on it. All the testing is happening."
We also spoke with the chief program engineer for Ranger Raptor, Damien Ross, in the hope we'd get a clearer answer on why, after three years of development, basic safety technology like this was omitted.
Asked whether Ford takes customer safety lightly, he said the company considers it "very seriously. Very seriously".
"Safety is the number one priority and it always has been," he said.
"What we're trying to do is deploy the right features as fast as we can do that," he went on. "So by next year we'll have a kind of an AEB on all of our Rangers."
When asked why Ford didn't employ more people to engineer a solution for its new halo product, Ross explained it wasn't a resource issue, but a technology issue.
"This is not about resources. It's about technology, about availability. So for us, it's about when is it available and it can deploy it. We are doing it in the fastest time we can do it."
"All we can say, not wanting to let away trade secrets, it is a different geometry of the vehicle, the technology. The technology we choose does have to fit the geometry, and height, and all of the aspects of the vehicle. Simply, that technology we're still running the final testing on," said Ross.
Ford also took steps to confirm that fitting AEB to Ranger and Ranger Raptor won't affect its off-road ability. In other words, the system won't freak out if passing a rogue branch or approaching a tree – it's designed to specifically detect vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.
Do you think Ford should have readied AEB across the Ranger line-up already, or is it reasonable to expect delays during the engineering process? Has it affected your decision to buy a Ranger Raptor?