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Click above for a high-res shot of Active Park Assist in action

Admit it, you've embarrassed yourself at some point trying to parallel park. It's like they say about drivers at Indianapolis: There are those who have hit the wall, and those who will. The same principle applies when it comes to parallel parking. Like an increasing number of automakers, Ford is moving beyond the realm of auto-dip side mirrors and into the realm of auto parking systems. The Blue Oval's new Active Park Assist will initially be available on the Lincoln MKS and MKT (about which you'll hear much more on January 12) next summer.

The system takes advantage of the ultrasonic sensors now mounted on the corners of many vehicles (used for backup warning, blind spot detection and other functions), and combines them with a new electric power assisted steering setup. The system can manipulate the steering automatically and the sensors detect where the vehicle is relative to other vehicles. It starts off by using the sensors to measure the distance between cars to determine if there is enough space, and then it operates the steering, instructing the driver when to shift into Drive or Reverse and press the gas or brake. Ford claims the system works much more reliably than the camera-based system used by Lexus. We had no luck with the Lexus system, so we'll be the judge of how well Ford's setup works. Follow the jump to read Ford's official press release.

[Source: Ford]


Ford's new 'active park assist' makes Parallel parking a Breeze for Lincoln MKT and MKS owners

DEARBORN, Mich., Dec. 30, 2008 – The often stressful and frustrating task of parallel parking soon will be as easy as pressing a button for owners of the Lincoln MKS flagship sedan and all-new Lincoln MKT seven-passenger luxury crossover, thanks to an exclusive new technology from Ford Motor Company called Active Park Assist.

Available in mid-2009 as an option on the 2010 Lincoln MKS sedan and new Lincoln MKT crossover, 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.

"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."

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.

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.

The Lincoln MKS sedan – which went on sale this summer with strong initial sales that have helped Lincoln gain share in the luxury segment in the second half of this year – raises the bar on exclusive technologies offered in a luxury car. The Lincoln MKS features:

Adaptive Cruise Control, which allows the driver to set and maintain the vehicle's speed, while a radar monitors traffic ahead. This optional system automatically adjusts speed and slows the vehicle to maintain the set distance behind traffic ahead.

Intelligent Access with Push Button Start, which allows the driver to enter the Lincoln MKS and start the engine without using the key. Drivers simply carry the special fob as they approach the vehicle, touch the keyless entry keypad on the B-pillar, open the door and, with the brake pedal engaged, start the engine by pushing a button.

SecuriCode™ Keyless Entry Keypad, which is the next generation of a feature familiar to many Lincoln owners. It allows access to Lincoln MKS by unlocking the driver's door by entering a pre-set five-digit code. The newest version is now flush-mounted to the B-pillar with backlit numerals that illuminate to the touch.

Adaptive Headlamps with Standard High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Lamps, which enhance nighttime visibility by illuminating more of the road ahead. Sensors monitor the vehicle's speed and steering wheel input to engage headlamp movement and increase the driver's field of vision.

Rain-Sensing Wipers, which use an optical sensing system to gauge precipitation and automatically activate and adjust the wipers. The Lincoln MKS driver can choose among five sensitivity settings.

EasyFuel™ Capless Fuel-Filler System, which provides a hassle-free and more consistent seal than a manual fuel cap. EasyFuel self seals when refueling is complete.

SYNC, which is standard on the Lincoln MKS. This award-winning voice activated communications and entertainment system developed by Ford and Microsoft fully integrates Bluetooth®-enabled mobile phones and digital media players into the vehicle. SYNC incorporates 911 Assist, which can notify a local 911 emergency operator in the event of an air bag-deploying incident. SYNC Vehicle Health Report feature can keep the driver notified of scheduled maintenance, service intervals and vehicle system health information.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      This crap never works in the real world and you'd be a fool to trust it. Honestly, if parallel parking baffles you so much, hire a driver.
      • 6 Years Ago
      New Cars
      • 6 Years Ago
      I know it is "de riguer" to downgrade and erect your proboscis into the atmosphere to everything American. But American drivers have been doing it for a very long time, and the ONLY real measure of how good or bad they are, is in comparison with other nation's drivers.

      By that measure, no matter how we justifiably denigrate them, American drivers are superb in the comparison. The Death and Injury rate per 100,000 miles driven, is much much smaller than any where else in the world. And that includes AutoBahn Germany.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Not true. American fatality rates are higher than Germany and most other European countries as well as other places. In 2006, the US traffic fatality rate was 9.0 per 1 billion vehicle-km. In Germany it was 7.4, Britain was 6.3, Sweden and Switzerland were 5.9. http://cemt.org/IRTAD/IRTADPublic/we2.html
      • 6 Years Ago
      JDM Lover, if you have to learn to understand the system, what's the point?
      It should be straightforward, if the system has a learning curve it's easier to learn to parallel park and defeats the purpose.
      • 6 Years Ago
      If you can't parallel park, park somewhere else, or learn to do it yourself. Its not rocket science! And (this is my opinion only), rather than spending money on systems that park the car for you, look out for pedestrians for you, adjust your speed for you, car companies should spend those R&D dollars on making engines more efficient, developing battery tech for electric cars and making cars lighter while still being safe in a collision.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Those who consider that technologies and innovations, i believe are still stuck in the late 90s early 2000s. This was the period, when imports from Japan really started to have a huge impact in North America. Yes, that surge continues, but thinking about this properly and carefully. Ford has been on an upward trend since 2002. Esp in NA. If you dont know what and how things are changing, how good is Ford, and how stuck up people are those who think that cars made by Toyota and Honda are great,... well.. yeah.. you are stuck up!..

      i am a fan of Ford. However, i do believe there are engineering feats that have created quite an impact on the automotive field. but if you really look, Ford innovations are far superior than most things out there.

      btw, if you believe Japanese cars are great, good for you!!.. but if you are only brand specific with the big three there, then.. learn some more about other brands available from Japan, here. Consider those. Read a little more.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Those who consider that technologies and innovations ** made by Ford*.... i believe..
      • 6 Years Ago
      Some people really don't understand... This is an option, will be bought by people who think it's necessary for them. As JhonZ pointed out, it might seem useless to some and plenty useful to others. I am young, but I would pay for a system like that, not that I would be using it all the time, but when I wanted to, it would be there to assist me.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Alright, so you can all dismiss this as pure crap...

      And then you can all complain that I shouldn't be trying to parallel park a 22' long pickup truck...

      Have any of you tried to do this? Do you have ANY idea how difficult it is? It is very difficult to judge that the spot is big enough, after a while you get extremely good at it, however you will still struggle to get the truck into the spot because it is so long that your normal angles do not apply.

      Where I live, a good 20% of the vehicles on the road are pickup trucks, and while most are well under 20', some are longer than mine is! Parallel parking is not a daily thing for me, I am quite out of practice. I can do it quite easily if I drive my girlfriend's car. I can not do it easily in my truck. I have no reason to have two cars, so it absolutely makes no sense for me to have two. Unless of course you want to sell me a hybrid that I actually fit in...
      • 6 Years Ago
      Really? Who has the Ba**s to say well, If Toyota/Lexus cant do it, no one can. heh... nuff said.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The "enthusiasts" who frequent Autoblog always amaze me with their narrow views of the auto world.
      I am 65 and going through the aging process where I am losing flexibility in my neck and back. It is much more difficult for me to turn in the drivers seat to see objects behind me. Parallel parking is more challenging for me now than a few years ago so a reliable parking assist system really appeals to me.
        • 6 Years Ago
        How do you check your blind spot while changing lanes then? That's a quicker, and one would imagine, more painful, turning of the neck.

        Please don't say that you "don't".

        • 6 Years Ago
        I didn't say I can't turn my neck. I just find it more difficult, and especially to turn and look out the back window when parking.
        Re doing lane changes, I am also looking forward to Ford's new side mirrors which help with seeing cars in the blind spot.
        These are important technologies for older drivers and I am pleased to see Ford providing some leadership in these areas as well as in technologies like Sync for the younger generations, which us old guys also appreciate.
      • 6 Years Ago
      If lexus couldn't get it right, why would anyone think ford could do any better? The lexus system costs $6,000 and is nothing more than a time waster.

      Parallel parking is EASY! If your going to drive- here is a crazy idea, LEARN TO DRIVE! There is a reason that used to be on the test, I guess its not any more. It amazes me how many fat, lazy Americans can't shift there own gears, parallel park, etc. Shocking! And why on this green earth are there something like 10 cupholders in a honda fit!!!

      p.s. - Putting a system like this on a turd is equal to polishing it. Its still a turd. The MKT and MKS are crap. If you have to buy an American "luxury" car, you obviously go Cadillac. Lincoln is nothing more than a rebadged mercury - at best.

      This like the sync system in the focus. A nice idea, if it were in something NICE.
        • 6 Years Ago
        First of all the Lexus system is completely diferent as it relies on the camera in the back-up view system. The Ford uses sensors (see article). Second, You can't know anything about the MKT since it hasn't been released yet. Third, I doubt you have driven a MKS so you wouldn't have any direct knowledge of that car.The reviews thus far have been very good. Luxury car buyers are ageing and any new technology that appeals to Lincoln's target is a plus.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Wow, you've driven an MKT so you know it's "crap?"
        • 6 Years Ago
        I think you've got it wrong Jason, Finland have the best drive ed. You've got to learn how to drift to pass the test...now that's what I want to pay my 250 dollars for. Speed don't kill people do. And parking assist is for wussy. Embarassing if you're a man
        • 6 Years Ago
        I can drive fine, thanks. I typically do 30k+ a year and have 0 accidents. I even drive a manual transmission car and enjoy shifting my own gears. Yet I can't parallel park for $hit......
        • 6 Years Ago
        I agree: You can't polish a turd . . . but you CAN roll it in glitter.
        • 6 Years Ago
        What's wrong with SYNC? I think it's awesome, it's a clean interface that works well.
        • 6 Years Ago
        nice line of thinking, lexus/toyota couldn't do it...which means that no one can. since when were they anointed as the gods of R&D in the car world? thats just sheer stupidity on your part.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Funny, people will take any piece of information that related to Ford/Merc/Lincoln and turn it against them.

        God forbid Lexus couldn't accomplish something....so that means it's impossible for a Domestic maker to do it? Great line of thought. Keep drinking your Kool Aid.

        I can honestly say that after taking my drivers test, I've only had to parallel park about 5 times. I don't know what you're driving, but parking a big vehicle isn't the easiest thing to do. As for the price, it has not been listed, so stop assuming that it will cost 6K or whatever. And, it's an option, meaning you DON"T have to get it if you don't want to.

        As for Lincoln being nothing more than a rebaged Mercury, that is an epic fail on your part. Cadillac is not that perfect of a company either. Their interiors aren't exactly up to luxury standards; both in build quality and fit and finish. As for the "fat lazy Americans that cant shift their own gears", not everyone wants to. If you love manuals, then more power to you, but some people aren't able to shift because of medial issues as well. I don't see why being fat makes you inept to change your own gears.

        Do explain as to why SYNC in a focus (or any other Ford/Merc vehicle ) is bad?

        Anyways, good for Ford. I am glad to know that they are finding ways to make EPS more useful. I'm sure this will become an option on most large vehicles from Ford/Lincoln.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'm not sure the problem is American drivers ed, but American driving in general. I learned how to parallel park back then and could do it reasonably well. In eleven years since drivers ed I could probably count the number of times I have parallel parked on one hand and have a few fingers left over. I just never have had to. We have these things called parking lots where you just have to drive (or back) into a space. It's not surprising that when you only do something once every several years you get a bit rusty at it.

        By the same token, since I so rarely have to parallel park, why do I care about this feature? It's not that hard to do. Last time I parallel parked I think I was in my '70 Caddy, which is roughly two feet longer than the Lexus LS.
        • 6 Years Ago
        you are an idiot. bottom line.

        First: Sync vehicles sell 50% faster than non-sync and turn about 30-50% faster than anything GM even offers. period.

        Second: Lincoln is the ONLY luxury manufacturer to increases market share in all quarters of 2008. Cadillac is suffering from massive quality issues.

        Third: you are dumb. this parallel parking system is revolutionary. The toyota system uses CAMERAS to park the car and you are lucky to have it work 50% of the time. The Lincoln version uses RADAR SENSORS which park you 99.9% of the time (based on unbiased preliminary trials from 3rd parties).

        everything you say makes zero sense. if you want luxury you buy cadillac?!?!? what?!?! obviously an opinion. keep watching and see how Lincoln reclaims it's spot on the top.


        • 6 Years Ago
        American drivers ed is a joke. I took it three months ago and all I learned was 'speed kills'...which I dismissed as a crock of sh--. The country with really good drivers is Germany and I want to take drivers ed there.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Whoa man I think I've just found my next vacation spot lol
      • 6 Years Ago
      why don't you spend that 6Gs and learn to self park?

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