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.