Parallel parking will get easier for owners of Lincoln's MKS flagship sedan and the new MKT crossover thanks to a new technology from Ford Motor Co. called Active Park Assist. The option, available in mid-2009, uses an ultrasonic-based sensing system developed with Valeo and Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) developed with TRW to position the vehicle for parallel parking, calculate the optimal steering angle, and 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.
Active Park Assist, which uses sensors on the front and rear of the vehicle, is said by Ford to be a major leap forward in speed and ease of use compared with the camera-based systems offered by competitors such as Toyota's Lexus. Ford says its system requires less driver interface, reduces the risk of selecting a parking spot that is too tight, and works in downhill parking situations.
The driver activates the system by pressing an instrument panel button, which prompts the ultrasonic sensors to measure and identify a feasible parallel parking space. After the driver accepts the system's assistance to park, the steering takes over and steers the car into the parking space hands-free while the driver shifts the transmission and operates the gas and brake pedals. The driver can interrupt the system by grasping the steering wheel.
In addition to helping with parallel parking, the EPAS improves fuel economy up to 5% primarily because an electric motor is used for assistance instead of an always-powered engine-mounted hydraulic pump. For this and other reasons, Ford plans to fit nearly 90% of the Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury lineups with EPAS by 2012.
“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.
Active Park Assist works in tandem with other new technologies on the 2010 MKS and MKT and other Ford vehicles including Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and Cross Traffic Alert. BLIS employs a sensor on the outboard rear quarter panel that monitors a vehicle's blind spot and notifies the driver with a warning indicator light in the corresponding side view mirror. Cross Traffic Alert uses BLIS sensors to help detect cross traffic when backing out of a parking space.