iFordbot – Helping Future Lincoln Owners Pay Less Attention While Driving
By Kevin Gordon
Ford announced that it will be releasing an exclusive new technology called Active Park Assist. According to Ford’s press release, this ability is in response to the ‘often stressful and frustrating task of parallel parking.’ Before we go through the details, I have to wonder. Will it be more stressful for the average Lincoln owner to parallel park, or letting their car take control of the steering when hunting for a parking space on the street? One way or another, it is good to see a U.S. auto manufacturer developing leading automation technology. Active Park Assist will be available in mid-2009 as an available option on the 2010 Lincoln MKS sedan and the new Lincoln MKT crossover.
Ford’s Active Park Assist differs from Lexus’s technology by using ultrasonic-based sensing instead of camera based technology. It also takes advantage of Ford’s new Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) to control the vehicle’s steering. The Ford system relies on the driver to control all throttle modulation and gear selection. In summary, here is the process a driver goes through to use Active Park Assist:
- The driver turns the system on with a button. This activates the ultrasonic-sensors to look for a possible parking space.
- The driver is prompted and must accept assistance.
- The system then takes control of steering, but relies on the driver for gas, brake, and shifting.
- While in this process, audible and visual cues provide the driver information on distance to other cars and provides instructions.
- At any point, the driver can take control of the system by grabbing the steering wheel.
The EPAS system is also quite advanced. In contrast to typical power steering systems which are driven by a hydraulic system, EPAS is driven by the electrical system of the car. This results in less total parasitic loss to engine power and has Ford touting reduced CO2 emissions and up to 5 percent improvement in fuel economy. This system is supposed to find its way to 90 percent of the Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury lineup by 2012. This appears to follow the trend to have fewer accessory items driven full-time by the serpentine belt on the front of the engine.
The number of advanced technologies that are going to be available on the MKS and MKT are a bit staggering. In addition to Electric Power Assisted Steering and Active Park Assist, Lincoln will allow you to add the following tech items from the options list:
- Blind Spot Information System (BLISTM) – Uses an ultrasonic sensor on the rear quarter panels to monitor a drivers blind spot and can alert the driver to a potential vehicle when merging or changing lanes
- Cross Traffic Alert – Uses the same sensors as the BLIS system to assist drivers while backing out of parking spaces
- Adaptive Cruise Control – Uses a radar monitor to maintain a following distance to traffic ahead
- Intelligent Access with Push Button Start – Uses a key fob to allow the driver push button car access and starting
- SecuriCodeTMKeyless Entry Keypad – Uses a flush mounted touch pad to allow the driver to access the car by entering a five-digit code
- Adaptive Headlights – Uses speed and angle sensors to move the car’s headlights to light more of the road ahead
- Rain-Sensing Wipers – Uses an optical sensing system to activate and adjust wipers
- EasyFuelTMCapless Fuel-Filler System – Uses a self sealing filler to eliminate the need for a traditional cap
It will be very interesting to see how these technologies will be accepted by the traditional buyers of Lincoln vehicles. Once activated, all of these technologies will have the modern Lincoln beeping and flashing more then the average toddler’s game. With that said, it is very exciting to see these capabilities trickling into the Ford/Lincoln/Mercury product lines. While an MKS might not be on the top of a younger person’s shopping list, it would be great to see a Flex or Fusion available with these more advanced technologies. With all of these capabilities we will have to hope that the future versions of Ford/Lincoln/Mercury vehicles will have Issac Asimov’s three rules of robotics programmed into their ECUs: A Ford may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A Ford must also obey orders given to it, except where orders would conflict with the first rule. Finally a Ford must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second rule.
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