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Ford to introduce Active Park Assist in 2009

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January 1, 2009

Ford's Active Park Assist system - click to enlarge

Ford's Active Park Assist system - click to enlarge

January 2, 2009 Ford is introducing a new Active Park Assist technology on its 2010 Lincoln MKS flagship sedan and new Lincoln MKT seven-passenger luxury crossover. Available in mid-2009 as an option, Active Park Assist uses an ultrasonic-based sensing system and Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) to position the vehicle for parallel parking, calculate the optimal steering angle and quickly steer the vehicle into a parking spot. As described in the technical review of the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, the EPAS system utilizes a steering column mounted electric motor that provides steering power assistance on demand and typically consumes less than 7% of the energy of a conventional hydraulic rack and pinion power steering system.

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.

Here’s 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.

90% of Fords to have Electric Power Assist by 2012

Active Park Assist is enabled by Ford’s advanced EPAS technology. In addition to helping with parallel parking, EPAS improves fuel economy up to 5 percent, while reducing CO2 emissions and enhancing steering performance compared with traditional hydraulic powered-assisted steering systems. EPAS saves fuel primarily because the steering system is powered by an electric motor connected to vehicle’s battery, as opposed to engine-mounted hydraulic pump steering systems. By 2012, Ford plans to fit nearly 90 percent of the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury lineup with EPAS.

“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,” said Ali Jammoul, Ford’s chief engineer for chassis engineering and steering systems. “This is technology not for the sake of technology, but technology designed to meet the needs and wants of customers.”

As Ford introduces EPAS in more vehicles, it will be able to offer Active Parking Assist in more models. In addition, Ford is working on using EPAS 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 MKS and MKT and other Ford Motor Company 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.

More details about the new Lincoln MKT seven-passenger luxury crossover will be available when it debuts at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.

Paul Evans

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