Ford is introducing an automatic parking system in the flagship Lincoln MKS sedan, as well as the upcoming Lincoln MKT seven-seat luxury crossover, to help drivers parallel park with ease. Known as 'Active Park Assist', the system will be available in mid-2009 as an option on both cars.
Earlier this year, we reported that Ford was planning on fitting around 90% of its vehicles with electronic steering, and that this electronic steering technology would facilitate the implementation of an automatic parking system, similar to that seen in luxury marques such as Lexus.
However, unlike camera-based systems used in Lexus models, '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 steer the vehicle into a parking spot.
According to Ford, the technology is a "major leap forward in speed and ease of use compared with the camera-reliant systems offered by competitors" as the system requires less driver interface and reduces the risk of selecting a parking spot that is too tight, as well as having the ability to work in downhill parking situations.
Practically speaking, using the system itself is fairly simple - the driver activates the system by simply 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, at which point the steering system then takes over and steers the car into the parking space hands-free.
Like other systems, the driver still shifts the transmission and operates the gas and brake pedals while a visual and/or audible driver interface advises the driver about the proximity of other cars, objects and people and provides instructions until the park is complete. In the event of anything untoward, the driver can interrupt the system by grasping the steering wheel and using the brakes.
Currently, Ford plans to fit even more models with electronic steering, which means that more and more Ford models should be available with the Active Park Assist feature in the near future. On top of helping drivers park their vehicles, electronic steering improves fuel economy up to 5 percent, while reducing CO2 emissions and enhancing steering performance compared with traditional hydraulic powered-assisted steering systems.