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Active Park Assist  (Source: Ford)
The Lincoln MKS and MKT will be the firs Ford vehicles to get the new parking assist service

Much of the buzz surrounding the automotive industry has centered on the dire financial straits the big three have found themselves in and electric/hybrid vehicles. Going more unnoticed is the new technology that automakers like Ford are integrating into their vehicles to make them safer for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

We have all sat, watched, and waited while someone tried in vain to parallel park their vehicle. Starting in mid-2009, an option for the Lincoln MKS Sedan and MKT crossover will be a new system Ford calls Active Park Assist. The system uses a series of ultrasonic sensors arrayed at the corners of the vehicles to sense the position of the vehicle in relation to others around it.

Working in conjunction with the sensors, an Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) system activates to position the vehicle for parallel parking. The system will calculate the optimal steering angle and quickly steer the vehicle into the parking spot autonomously.

"With the touch of a button, Lincoln MKS and MKT drivers can parallel park quickly, easily and safely without ever touching the steering wheel,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president of Global Product Development. “This is another example of exclusive Ford smart technology, such as Ford SYNC, that makes the driving experience easier and more enjoyable for our customers."

Ford says that its ultrasonic sensor based system is much more effective than similar parking assist systems that use cameras like Lexus vehicles feature. The Parking Assist system takes care of the steering control for the car, but the driver is required to shift gears and control throttle and braking.

A visual and/or audible interface keeps the driver aware of the proximity of other cars, objects, and people and will change the instructions as needed to safely park the vehicle. At any time, the driver can interrupt the parking assist system by grabbing the steering wheel.

Ford says that there is more to the EPAS system than simply offering help when parallel parking the vehicle. The EPAS system is said to improve fuel economy by up to 5% and reduce CO2 emissions at the same time. Steering performance is enhanced when compared to hydraulic systems in use on most cars today according to Ford. The automaker says it plans to fit 90% of its production vehicles with the EPAS system by 2012.

Ford's Ali Jammoul said in a statement, "As we use advanced technology like Electric Power Assisted Steering to improve the fuel efficiency across our vehicle lineup, we have the opportunity to introduce new comfort and convenience innovations like Active Parking Assist. This is technology not for the sake of technology, but technology designed to meet the needs and wants of customers."

This technology will be offering in conjunction with other Ford safety systems on some of the company's vehicles. Other systems include the Blind Spot Identification System. Ford unveiled its Collision Warning with Brake Support system in October of 2008. Ford isn’t clear on if the Collision Warning System will be offered alongside the other technologies for parking and blind spot detection.

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Fuel economy?
By Spivonious on 12/30/2008 12:45:04 PM , Rating: 2
How does a parking assist feature improve fuel economy? Are they counting on the normal driver needing to make a few attempts to park the car?

RE: Fuel economy?
By rudolphna on 12/30/2008 12:53:00 PM , Rating: 2
its not the parking assist that saves fuel. It is the electric steering, as opposed to the traditional hydraulic system running of the Serpentine belt. This will run off the electrical system, and will be more efficient. As an example, if you removed your belt-run cooling fan, with an electric one, you would gain several Horsepower, and fuel economy. Those things are a significant drain on engine output.

RE: Fuel economy?
By kkwst2 on 12/30/2008 1:12:18 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, but the potential is not just the belt. Being able to remove the hydraulic system would save a LOT of weight and cost, and this is the first step. I'm guessing they're still using hydraulic breaks, so they still probably haven't completely removed the hydraulics, but this is a good first step. It's unbelievable to me that we haven't shed hydraulics in favor of electrical systems by now.

It should have happened 10 years ago, but this is a good sign that the domestic companies are starting to think outside the box. I don't think it's the first electric assist steering, but it would probably be the most mainstream one.

So the electric assist steering is the real story here and is a good sign in my opinion.

RE: Fuel economy?
By FITCamaro on 12/30/2008 3:04:03 PM , Rating: 2
Electric steering sucks. It has far less feedback from the road. And I'm sorry but I don't trust the longevity of an electric motor for something like steering. A hydraulic steering is far more reliable to me. And far less costly to fix if something does go wrong.

Was the only thing on my Cobalt I disliked. I was almost afraid to turn it hard because I didn't want to wear out the electric motor faster.

RE: Fuel economy?
By Spuke on 12/30/2008 5:10:21 PM , Rating: 2
I was almost afraid to turn it hard because I didn't want to wear out the electric motor faster.
I wouldn't worry about it until you get into some really high mileage then you can just buy another motor or rebuild the one you have now.

RE: Fuel economy?
By Noya on 12/30/2008 7:26:31 PM , Rating: 2
It has far less feedback from the road. And I'm sorry but I don't trust the longevity of an electric motor for something like steering.

I guess it depends on the manufacturer.

Honda's NSX and S2000 were/are some of the best handling cars in their respective classes, and both have electric steering. And if you read buying guides on even the 1st gen NSX, the electric steering is of no maintenance/reliability concern.

RE: Fuel economy?
By GTVic on 12/30/2008 9:31:59 PM , Rating: 2
If you are afraid to try something new then you might be left behind.

The electric motor wasn't the problem in your Cobalt, it was the GM in front of the name.

RE: Fuel economy?
By FITCamaro on 12/30/2008 9:41:10 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah damn that car which gave me absolutely no problems in the 3 years and 48,000 miles I drove it.

Eat shit buddy. Stop listening to the media. Not all American cars suck.

RE: Fuel economy?
By Atheist Icon on 12/31/2008 1:56:47 PM , Rating: 2
Even though my 89 SC TBird is not a GM, I have yet to have major problems with it, 19 yrs 257K miles.

Not all American cars suck.

RE: Fuel economy?
By rudolphna on 12/31/2008 5:00:37 PM , Rating: 2
Hmm... I drive a 2003 Ford Expedition with 55,000 Miles on it, and have had very few problems... A few ignition coils easily replaced at home, and a rear A/C fan door (head/feet controld door) motor, also easily replaced at home. I own a 1999 Jeep Wrangler, no major mechaincal problems besides a new transmission (because I drove through a mud puddle deeper than it looked, and it both it and the tranny cooler). My father has a 97" Chevy Cavalier, again, no major problems and he drives that thing daily. Not all American made cars are pieces of crap you know.

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