Until the day that the world is overrun by smart fortwos, parallel parking will continue to be one of the most challenging tasks of driving a vehicle. Backup cameras and infrared sensors are a big help, but most drivers are still nervous when parallel parking about holding up traffic, making multiple attempts or even hitting a parked car or the curb. Like higher-end luxury brands such as Lexus, Ford Motor Company is introducing a new technology to aid drivers during parallel parking called Active Park Assist. Ford's Active Park Assist will make its debut on the 2010 Lincoln MKT crossover and Lincoln MKS sedan, but it will likely spread to other Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles throughout the 2010 model year.
The biggest advantage of the Active Park Assist technology is that it takes the guess work out of searching for a parking spot. At the touch of a button, the system begins scanning for spots that will accommodate the vehicle. Once an appropriately sized spot is found, the system emits an audible warning as well as a visual message on the instrument cluster alerting the driver. After a proper parking space is located, all the driver has to worry about is shifting into reverse and applying the gas and brake pedals as necessary - the car will steer itself into the spot relative to surrounding cars as well as the curb.
Very similar to the self-parking abilities of the $63,825 Lexus LS 460, Ford's Active Park Assist automatically controls the vehicle steering during parallel parking maneuvers by using sensors designed for other safety programs such as Blind Spot Information System and Cross Traffic Alert. Unlike the system used on the Lexus, though, Ford's Active Park Assist doesn't require any driver input to position the vehicle for a parking spot. Both the position and trajectory of the vehicle are determined and controlled by the sensors mounted at all four corners of the vehicle and help locate a useable spot, properly position the vehicle for the maneuver and automatically guides the vehicle steering. Since the driver controls the gas and the brake, the driver is still responsible for watching out for hazards and the driver can interrupt the system at anytime just by grabbing the steering wheel.
Ford says that its Active Park Assist system will be introduced later this summer on 2010 Lincoln MKT models equipped with the optional 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6, but it did not release any details as to the system's pricing or related option packages. For comparison, Lexus does not offer its Advanced Parking Guidance System a la carte but offers it as part of a $3,815 package that includes a navigation system - we expect something along this line at least for the Lincolns. Ford's Active Park Assist will be optional on all 2010 Ford, Lincoln or Mercury vehicles equipped with the either the EcoBoost V-6 (such as the Lincoln MKT, Lincoln MKS and Ford Flex) or vehicles that come standard with electric power steering such as the Ford Escape, Ford Escape Hybrid, Mercury Mariner and Mercury Mariner Hybrid). Ford says that by 2012, 90 percent of all its vehicles will come standard with the fuel-saving electric power steering opening up the possibility of Active Power Assist spreading to a larger number of Ford cars, trucks and SUVs.