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Bill Roth headshot

How Ford Focus RS Smart Technology Impacts Sustainability

By Bill Roth

Nothing better explains how smart tech will reshape our lives than the Ford Focus RS.

This is a four-cylinder car, but it is excitingly fast and outrageously fun to drive. It is also the safest car I have ever driven. Even with supercar levels of horsepower, the EPA estimates the car gets 25 miles per gallon at highway speeds.

What the RS demonstrates is how smart tech enables fun and sales. Smart tech's commercial success path will also be how products contribute toward mitigating climate change.

Test-driving the RS at Ford’s Dearborn proving grounds

Ford invited me to test-drive the Focus RS at its proving grounds in Dearborn, Michigan. I welcomed the opportunity. Last year, Ford invited me to San Francisco to test-drive the Focus ST. The ST was the fastest Focus before Ford introduced this year’s RS. My San Francisco test-drive of the ST was a blast. The ST is fast, agile and a fun ride.

But the RS is the ST on steroids. Using smart tech, Ford created a 350-horsepower, street-legal rally sports car. The RS’s dynamic digital controls allow you to dial up four driving modes: fast, faster, fastest and RIDICULOUS!

How the RS’s smart tech makes a driver bulletproof

The RS’s smart tech improves even an average driver’s capabilities. In my first drive, I drove the RS like an ST. I had fun, but I was prudent in how I handled the car.

Ford provided a closed track for me to explore the RS’s potential. Company reps encouraged me to test the RS’s limits. So, I smashed the accelerator and challenged the track’s sharp curves to defeat the car (and me).

Never before had I approached sharp curves so fast. No worries with the RS. The brakes confidently but dramatically slowed the car. The smart tech that controls the RS’s four-wheel drive system delivered a quick flow through the curve. Next, I tried really screwing up. I mashed the accelerator during the curve. Again, the smart tech seamlessly made my acceleration work.

I then realized the dumbest thing in the RS was me. I was not smart enough, or talented enough, to overwhelm the RS’s technology. This is a car built to enable a safe result when a driver has to make a panic maneuver to avoid a deer or a poor decision by another driver.

The Stig shows me what the RS can really do

Ford then gave me a drive in the RS with professional race car driver Ben Collins. Ben is the Stig from Top Gear. What he did with that car was the greatest amusement ride I have ever experienced.

I tried doing a video interview of the ride. I got as far as Ben graciously introducing himself and explaining the car. Then he smashed the accelerator and I was holding on as G-forces whipped me inside the racing-inspired seats.

Here’s the 30 second video I did with Ben at the start of my thrilling ride:

After jamming me in my seat from straight-line acceleration, Ben then drifted the RS through a sharp curve. I have been to a drift car race and watched in awe. Now I was screaming with delight as the RS flew sideways through a curve. I had hardly wiped the huge grin from my face when Ben did it again through a second curve. And then a third. WHEW!

Then we raced toward a parking-lot sized area flooded with water. Ben launched onto the flooded lot at full speed and began doing figure-eights using controlled hydroplaning. Who knew you could control a hydroplaning car?

Next, I was stunned as he aggressively launched the RS off the flooded pavement and onto dry pavement. If I were driving I would have cautiously allowed the car to transition from slick to dry. But this is a smart car. It just flew off the flooded lot and onto the dry pavement with no loss of control. Just the opposite. Ben was in complete control and we were accelerating toward a banked track. OMG, OMG!

How smart tech fun could solve global warming

21st-century smart tech won't take 20th-century technology and make it better. The 20th century did not make the horse-based transportation system faster. It launched the automobile. The automobile was a mega sales success not because it was a better horse. It was so successful because it was more fun and enabling.

21st-century smart tech and sustainability are linked at the hip. Smart tech enables increased use of renewable energy. Smart tech uses less energy by being more efficient. (20th century tech gave us an underpowered Pinto rather than a Focus RS achieving both 350 horsepower and 25 MPG on the highway.)

I anticipate we will barely notice smart tech’s sustainability because our focus will be on how it is improving our daily activities. The Internet of Things will make us wonder how we survived living and working in dumb 20th-century homes and offices. Artificial intelligence (AI) will just “be there” like the air we breath. AI will assist us, enable us and protect us without us having to say the words Siri or Alexa.

For example, Ford RS’s smart technology is extensive, complex and invisible. The driver’s attention is not on the technology. It is on the fantastic driving experience. History may remember the RS as an early 21st-century example of smart tech’s ability to make life more fun and more sustainable.

And that is the promise of smart tech’s role in the Green Economic Revolution. Smart tech is fun. Fun sells. Smart tech holds the promise of driving sales success for more sustainable products that deliver both on fun and values.

Bill Roth headshot

Bill Roth is a cleantech business pioneer having led teams that developed the first hydrogen fueled Prius and a utility scale, non-thermal solar power plant. Using his CEO and senior officer experiences, Roth has coached hundreds of CEOs and business owners on how to develop and implement projects that win customers and cut costs while reducing environmental impacts. As a professional economist, Roth has written numerous books including his best selling The Secret Green Sauce (available on Amazon) that profiles proven sustainable best practices in pricing, marketing and operations. His most recent book, The Boomer Generation Diet (available on Amazon) profiles his humorous personal story on how he used sustainable best practices to lose 40 pounds and still enjoy Happy Hour!

Read more stories by Bill Roth