Ford's new kick-activated tailgate provides hands-free opening
By C.C. Weiss
March 7, 2012
Ford may have spent last month using technology to create more problems, but this month it shows how it's using technology to actually solve problems. The new kick-activated tailgate on the Kuga SUV lets you open the tailgate without your hands. It's a valuable feature for anyone that tends to lug two armfuls worth of goods to the car.
The latest Kuga, which is on display at the Geneva Motor Show, features a two-sensor system that recognizes the movement of the shin and foot and opens the tailgate automatically. The feature is useful for anyone that has their hands full with groceries or other packages and wants to open the car without having to set them down. To open, Kuga owners simply lightly kick their foot under the rear bumper.
The hands-free tailgate system can only be activated when it recognizes the remote-entry key on your person. You don't have to pull your key FOB out to unlock the doors, because the system automatically recognizes it and unlocks with the flick of your foot. In this way, the system is as secure as a regular remote entry.
Ford developers spent six months working in the Human Machine Interface laboratory, tweaking the system with the help of volunteer kickers that tested the motion sensors. They ensured that the system distinguishes between actual kicks and other motions - say a pothole in the road - so that the tailgate doesn't inadvertently pop open when you least expect it.
With so much technology going into ambiguous or arguably dangerous automotive systems, it's good to see an automaker using technology to solve an actual real-life problem, however small it may be.
The kick-activated tailgate will be offered as an option on the new Kuga, which is set to launch in the U.K. early next year. The option is already available on the Kuga's North American counterpart, the Escape.