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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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how much
By Chernobyl68 on 12/30/2008 5:33:05 PM , Rating: 2
wow, how much will this system drive up the cost of the vehicle? This is one of the things that is "nice to have" but isn't essential. And I hate to see manufacturers making cars more expensive to repair. How much will this puppy cost to repair or replace? got some body damage? how much to realign and calibrate that ultrasonic sensor?

If you ask me, most people's problem with parallel parking comes with being unable to properly estimate how much space they need to park. I'd hate to see money spent on things like this when they could be spending money on making a car easier to maintain, more reliable, or more fuel efficient.

RE: how much
By mdogs444 on 12/30/2008 5:42:54 PM , Rating: 2
wow, how much will this system drive up the cost of the vehicle? This is one of the things that is "nice to have" but isn't essential. And I hate to see manufacturers making cars more expensive to repair.

Its debuting on Lincoln, Ford's domestic luxury line, not on a Ford Focus. People who buy Lincoln are already paying a premium over comparable vehicles from Ford's domestic lineup (Navigator vs Expedition, Mariner vs Escape, etc). So giving a luxury lineup more options, even at a cost premium, is not an issue.

Now, if they were making this a standard feature, or required with a basic "premium" package on a budget minded Ford car, then I'd agree with you. However, that is not the case here.
If you ask me, most people's problem with parallel parking comes with being unable to properly estimate how much space they need to park.

It also comes with repetition and location. Many people do not live in the city or urban areas, thus they do not parallel park on a regular basis. Many people live in the suburbs, and drive larger SUV's and trucks that they do not have to parallel park on a consistent basis.

RE: how much
By whirabomber on 12/31/2008 7:36:57 AM , Rating: 2
From a more complete article, Ford plans on offering the option on all vehicles by 2011 or 2012 after the Lincoln folks beta test it for the rest of us. I don't see the option costing more than $700 on a Lincoln (as most Lincolns seem to have follow assist and parking sensors standard).

I am one of the suburbanites myself and would love to have parallel parking assistance. I would rather pay and park in a garage or lot than park parallel.

Some folks (CNN?) say that the direction is a waste of money for Ford, I say it would help sell me a car. In 10 years such automatic options will be as standard as cruise control. Of course so will vehicle gps "anti-theft" devices and court binding black boxes.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
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