Automotive Safety & Rules of the Road, Ford

Ford’s Active Park Assist – SPECIAL REPORT

While Ford was encouraging us to put the Fiesta through its paces, they took the opportunity to showcase a couple of their new safety items.  Last week we covered the ingenious MyKey system from Ford and this week I thought I’d share a couple of other unique safety products from Ford…

Since I’ve never had a problem parallel parking (I’ve parallel parked a full-size panel van during rush hour and also a big U-Haul truck on the first attempt), I wasn’t very interested when I first read about Active Park Assist … however, after experiencing it, you really have to check this out…

Parallel parking a new Flex between another Flex and a Focus without using the steering wheel has to be one of the strangest things I’ve ever done. Pulling up beside the Focus, I pressed the park button to activate the search for a parking spot. Easing off the brake pedal and rolling forward, the Flex scanned to see if there was sufficient space to fit. After beeping, the information center told me to put the Flex into reverse and I took my hands off the wheel. As soon as I did that, the rear-view camera came on in the SatNav screen, showing the Focus and my intended parking spot.

The steering wheel turned quickly as I backed slowly toward the Focus. I could clearly see us getting closer and closer to the front bumper of the Focus – much closer than I would have ever gone before pulling forward. The short beeps turned to a solid beep – that was my signal to look at the information centre where it told me to put the Flex into Drive. As soon as I did that the steering wheel again took on a life of its own as it straightened us out and I inched forward – a PERFECT park!

What was so impressive is how easy it was – the hardest part is forcing yourself not to touch the steering wheel. Parallel parking a big vehicle like the Flex will certainly intimidate plenty of people, but this will make so many people look so competent, they’ll go out of their way just to find a spot where they can parallel park!

How much do you think this is going to cost? Lexus offer a similar system on their $100,000 LS sedan, but Ford is bringing this to the masses. Would you believe….. $700 Canadian (I’m guessing around $600-650 U.S.). Talk about a bargoon!! Even I would spring for the Parking Assist just to get the fun factor. Look Ma – No Hands!!

One thing the Ford system has over the Lexus is that it doesn’t depend on there being a curb to guide the vehicle into the spot – just 2 vehicles with enough space between them. It can even be used on an incline as well.

Here is some more information from Ford…..


The often stressful and frustrating task of parallel parking soon will be as easy as pressing a button, thanks to an exclusive new technology from Ford called Active Park Assist. With the touch of a button and without ever touching the steering wheel, Active Park Assist uses ultrasonic-based sensing system and Electric Power Steering (EPS) to steer the vehicle into a parking spot.

Available in mid-2009 as an option on the 2010 Ford Escape, the 2010 Ford Flex with EcoBoost, the Lincoln MKS flagship sedan and new Lincoln MKT luxury crossover, Active Park Assist uses an ultrasonic-based sensing system and Electric Power Steering (EPS) to position the vehicle for parallel parking, calculate the optimal steering angle and quickly steer the vehicle into a parking spot.

“With the touch of a button, 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 technology that makes the driving experience easier and more enjoyable for customers.”

Active Park Assist system uses sensors on the front and rear of the vehicle to guide the vehicle into a parking space.  The technology is a major leap forward in speed and ease of use compared with the camera-reliant systems offered by competitors, including a video camera-based system offered by Lexus.  Ford’s system requires less driver interface and reduces the risk of selecting a parking spot that is too tight.  Ford’s Active Park Assist also works in downhill parking situations, unlike competing systems.

How Active Park Assist works:

•    The driver activates the system by pressing an instrument panel button, which activates the ultrasonic sensors to measure and identify a feasible parallel parking space.
•    The system then prompts the driver to accept the system assistance to park.
•    The steering system then takes over and steers the car into the parking space hands-free. The driver still shifts the transmission and operates the gas and brake pedals.
•    A visual and/or audible driver interface advises the driver about the proximity of other cars, objects and people and provides instructions.
•    While the steering is all done automatically, the driver remains responsible for safe parking and can interrupt the system by grasping the steering wheel.

Ford will be offering Active Parking Assist in more models.  In addition, Ford is working on using EPS and other sensors for other smart technologies, including one that could prevent a vehicle from drifting out of lane on the highway.

Active Park Assist works in tandem with other new technologies that will be offered on the 2010 Ford Flex with EcoBoost, Ford Escape, the Lincoln MKS and MKT and other vehicles, including Blind Spot Information System (BLIS™) and Cross Traffic Alert.  BLIS employs a sensor on the outboard rear quarter panel that monitors the traditional blind spot area, and can notify the driver with a warning indicator light in the corresponding side-view mirror if the sensors in this optional system detect a vehicle in the blind spot.  Cross Traffic Alert uses BLIS sensors to help detect cross traffic when backing out of a parking space.

Be sure to have a look at other safety features coming from Ford in the near future – see below.

Upcoming Technologies
Rain-Sensing Windshield Wipers

What is it?
Rain-sensing Windshield Wipers use an optical sensor mounted behind the rearview mirror to detect moisture (such as rain, sleet or snow) on the windshield. When moisture is present, the system activates the windshield wipers at the appropriate speed to keep the windshield clear.


Once the feature is turned on, there is no need for the driver to activate, deactivate or adjust the windshield wipers.
There are five driver-selectable sensitivity settings on the windshield wiper stalk. This lets the driver customize the windshield wipers’ cadence.
Drivers can also rotate out of rain-sensing mode to standard low-and high-speed settings.

Intelligent Access with Push Button Start

What is it?
Intelligent Access with Push Button Start is a system that unlocks the driver’s door whenever the owner approaches with the key fob in their possession and touches any part of the keypad. Drivers can also start the engine when the key fob is inside the vehicle by pressing the brake pedal and pushing the “Engine Start/Stop” button on the instrument panel.


Owners no longer have to take out their keys to unlock and start their vehicles.
Owners can leave their key fob in their briefcases or handbags and still be able to start the vehicle.
The trunk can be accessed by approaching the rear of the vehicle with the key fob and pressing the switch located underneath the chrome trim.

Power Sunshade

What is it?
The Power Sunshade rises from the rear package tray trim of the vehicle to provide 80 percent coverage of the rear window. A switch located in the floor console gives the driver One-Touch Up/Down operation of the sunshade.


Blocks up to 70 percent of the light to help keep the interior of the vehicle cool.
Helps shade rear-seat passengers and protects the vehicle’s interior.
Automatically lowers when the vehicle is in Reverse.

SOS Post-crash Alert

What is it?
SOS Post-crash Alert is a new safety feature presently in Lincoln vehicles. It automatically sounds the vehicle’s horn and flashes the headlamps and tail lamps in the event of an accident. The system activates whenever the airbags are deployed and continues until the battery power is exhausted or the system is turned off using the hazard switch, or by pressing the Unlock or Panic button on the key fob.


Notifies people that an accident has occurred.
The horn activation and flashing headlamps/tail lamps make it easier to spot the vehicle if the accident occurs off-road.
The system is designed to signal for assistance in single-car accidents when the driver has lost consciousness or is unable to exit the vehicle.

Auto High Beam

What is it?
Auto High Beam is an imaging-based system that is able to determine the source of lights up to 2,500 feet in front of the vehicle. If the lights are non-automotive, the system automatically activates the high beams to provide maximum illumination on dark roads. The system turns off the high beams if headlamps or brake lamps are detected.


High beams provide added visibility on dark roads.
The driver does not have to manually activate/deactivate high beams.
The system automatically adjusts for varying weather conditions.

Adaptive Headlamps

What is it?
Adaptive Headlamps automatically pivot as the vehicle goes around a curve to provide maximum illumination on winding roads. They are specially tuned to the vehicle and measure certain drive inputs, including steering-wheel angle and vehicle speed.


Gives drivers an earlier view of the road ahead when driving around a curve at night.
Capable of illuminating a greater stretch of road than conventional headlamps.
Allows for a total 20-degree range while turning (15-degree inboard and five-degree outboard).

Blind Spot Mirror:

What is it?
The Blind Spot Mirror is a traditional side view mirror designed with a secondary convex spotter in the top outer corner, which provides a view of the driver’s blind spot. When traffic enters the driver’s blind spot on either side of the vehicle, it is visible in the secondary convex mirror, alerting the driver of potential danger.


Ford’s Blind Sport Mirror answers customers’ demands for better visibility as they change lanes or parallel park.

Copyright © 2009 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland & Ford

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