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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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RE: One more step towards...
By Motoman on 12/30/2008 1:13:16 PM , Rating: 2
...frankly, I think there are far too many drivers on the road that lack sufficient driving skill. Blame society for thinking a driver's license is some kind of "right" as opposed to a privelege.

Anyway, we have a TrailBlazer (obviously easy to park) and a quad-cab 4x4 Ram 3500...which, granted an appropriate space, I can parallel-park just fine. And I think at least one Japanese company did introduce this feature a couple years ago anyway...

I just cringe everytime I see some other thing come out that allows a user to relinquish responsibility for something. If it were up to me, I'd ban automatic transmissions...if you can't figure out a clutch, I don't want to be on the road with you! And if you can't parallel-park your own vehicle...may I suggest the bus?

RE: One more step towards...
By Spivonious on 12/30/2008 1:34:47 PM , Rating: 2
Amen! I feel that driving a manual has given me a sense of being in control of my car. I hate driving my wife's automatic because it feels like it's driving me instead of the other way around.

RE: One more step towards...
By Bateluer on 12/30/2008 1:55:50 PM , Rating: 2
I can always tell when someone is driving a manual transmission. They always roll backwards on hills, stop signs, red lights, and any surface that has a grade on which they need to stop.

If I'm driving with them, its painfully obvious. Whiplash effect as they shift gears. Every driver I've ever ridden with who drives a manual, and swears by them, does this. Guess they are just used to it. Its annoying for me. And don't give the the tired 'they aren't driving it right' argument, some of these people are just as stubborn with the manual transmission and are likely older than you guys are. They still get the whiplash effect as they shift.

With my automatic, there's no whiplash. The shifting is seamless and smooth.

RE: One more step towards...
By Motoman on 12/30/2008 1:59:51 PM , Rating: 3
...stop by and I'll take you for a ride. There's no inherent reason why a stickshift vehicle can't be driven with smooth gear changes...and good clutch control minimizes/eliminates rollback at stop signs.

RE: One more step towards...
By therealnickdanger on 12/30/2008 2:36:12 PM , Rating: 2
You may also stop by and take a ride with me. The 400+HP mated to my automatic will give you a different kind of whiplash! ;-)

RE: One more step towards...
By Motoman on 12/30/2008 2:58:02 PM , Rating: 3
While I'm sure it does...if you don't mind me saying so (and you probably do, but...), I think you're wasting a good chunk of your driving experience by not having a stick.

RE: One more step towards...
By Nik00117 on 12/30/2008 11:47:05 PM , Rating: 3
I agree, stick shift=so much fun!

RE: One more step towards...
By RamarC on 12/30/2008 2:35:24 PM , Rating: 3

you're either seeing folks who can't drive a stick or are driving it for fun. i rock on inclines intentionally sometimes. and you'll only get 'whiplash' in my car if i'm pushing the engine hard (which i never do anymore :P). but if you floor an automatic with a powerful engine, it too will give you a bit of 'whiplash'.

a stick puts you in more control with the car and requires you to be a better driver since you have to pay attention and make choices other than point and go.

RE: One more step towards...
By FITCamaro on 12/30/2008 3:08:29 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. I barely roll back when starting off on a hill with a manual. And its not hard to drive a manual so that you don't feel the shift.

My old IROC-Z with a shift kit jerked the car far hard than I ever do with my GTO and a manual. In normal driving at least.

RE: One more step towards...
By Spivonious on 12/30/2008 4:05:04 PM , Rating: 3
If there's noticeable whiplash when shifting gears, these people don't know how to properly drive a manual. I gave a ride to one of my computer repair customers once and it took him most of the 25 minute ride to realize the car was a manual.

RE: One more step towards...
By UNHchabo on 12/30/2008 3:08:15 PM , Rating: 2
I love stick shifts myself, but what about people whose left leg doesn't work properly, but are otherwise able-bodied?

RE: One more step towards...
By Oregonian2 on 12/30/2008 3:20:48 PM , Rating: 2
I just cringe everytime I see some other thing come out that allows a user to relinquish responsibility for something.

True, power steering also is another evil. Keeps us from building our upper arm muscles like it should and making us flabby. Reminds me, automatic starters are pretty insane as well. As long as we're sticking with combustion engines for a while, why not lose some car weight (helping increase gas mileage) and go back to crank starters? Shoot, get rid of the car completely and go with walking! Adding features to keep up with the competition is silly.

P.S. - Tongue back in cheek, I very rarely parallel park. Live in the suburbs where parallel parking is rare -- and even when going into the city, am usually in parking garages where one doesn't parallel park either. I usually don't find parallel parking a problem, but I might not be exactly perfectly straight and parallel with the curb at the exact inches one is supposed to be -- more along the lines of "it looks okay, kinda".

RE: One more step towards...
By Oregonian2 on 12/30/2008 3:26:07 PM , Rating: 2
Blame society for thinking a driver's license is some kind of "right" as opposed to a privelege.

You do realize, don't you, that the privilege bit is something implanted into people's minds by the government -- that government that is trying to maintain it's power, its tight control over the population. In what international trips I've made, most drivers in the world that I've seen don't seem to pay all that much attention to driving rules that governments attempt to assert.

RE: One more step towards...
By FITCamaro on 12/30/2008 4:02:42 PM , Rating: 2
So according to you if someone has been in 10 accidents in a year, all their fault, they should just be allowed to keep driving.

Or if someone has driven drunk multiple times and killed several people, just let'em keep driving huh?

Because it's their right.

Driving is a privilege. One you lose if you f*ck up enough times.

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs
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