Now Who Can You Blame For Those Fender Dings?
Testing the Ford Active Park Assist
I consider myself an expert parallel parker: Living in New York City gives me daily opportunities for practice. Even so, I’m still impressed by Ford’s new Active Park Assist. And for people who’ve dreaded parallel parking since the days of driver’s ed, the new gizmo – an option costing roughly $595 for models including the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKS sedan – will offer real anxiety relief.
The ultrasonic system could not be easier to use: Drive past a line of parked cars, and Park Assist beeps when it spots a space large enough for you to squeeze into. Put the car in reverse and the car steers itself into the space, in impressively foolproof fashion – all you have to do is manage the brakes. In tight spots, you may need to pop back into “drive,” at which point the system spins the wheel again to align the car about 2 inches from the curb – no more scuffed wheels, guaranteed (not by Ford, of course). You may recall that Lexus offered a self-parking system on its pricey LS 460 luxury sedan. But it proved so balky, slow and impractical that it was essentially useless.
I’ve heard some bashing of Active Park Assist, stuff like, “Why is Ford wasting their time on gimmicks instead of fuel economy?” or, “Why would anyone waste money on this?” I can’t understand these arguments. For one, car development isn’t some zero-sum game: Ford has enough engineers to work on every area of a car, with some left over to develop future technology. Designing a new convenience feature doesn’t detract from work on safety or the environment, as evidenced by its solid Fusion hybrid sedan, which delivers 41 mpg city. Features we take for granted today, from remote locks to navigation systems, were often scoffed at as needless frills when introduced. I remember rolling my eyes over backup cameras the first time I saw one. Today, when I’m backing a jumbo SUV in tight quarters, I’ve come to appreciate how the camera makes the job easier and safer. Plus, the Ford system is optional: If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.
Personally, I take pride in my parking skills. But for people who find parallel parking an endless game of try, try again, Active Park Assist is a winner.
(Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company)
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