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Ford develops obstacle avoidance, next-gen self-parking features

Obstacle Avoidance System will automatically steer around objects, while Fully Assisted Parking Aid slides a car into a spot with the driver inside or outside.

By Douglas Newcomb Oct 9, 2013 6:44AM

Ford Obstacle Avoidance System. Image by Ford.Exactly a century ago, Henry Ford forever changed transportation by mass producing the automobile and making it affordable to more people. Many believe that the advent of self-driving technologies will cause a similar seismic shift in vehicle travel in particular and transportation in general by making driving easier, safer and accessible to more people.


While not as revolutionary as its founder’s assembly-line innovation approximately 100 years ago, Ford took baby steps toward fully autonomous vehicles by unveiling two prototype technologies this week that take control of a car. One will help drivers avoid obstacles, while the other will help them park -- from inside or outside the car.


Ford’s new Obstacle Avoidance System automatically controls steering and braking to direct a vehicle away from something in its path, provided the driver fails to do so following audible warnings. The system uses radar and ultrasonic sensors and a camera to scout ahead of the vehicle up to 200 meters and alert the driver to slow-moving or stationary objects.


After issuing a warning, the system automatically applies the brakes, looks for gaps on either side of the hazard and then takes control of the steering to avoid a collision if the driver fails to react. The technology has been tested at speeds of up to 38 mph.


According to Ford, research conducted in Germany revealed that less than a third of drivers involved in rear-end collisions try to steer before impact. Developed as part of a research project, Ford recently demonstrated the Obstacle Avoidance System at its Lommel, Belgium, proving grounds using a Focus.


Ford also revealed a prototype Fully Assisted Parking Aid that allows automatically parking a car while the driver is inside or outside the vehicle. Similar to technologies that Nissan, Volkswagen and BMW have demonstrated, Ford said that Fully Assisted Parking Aid was developed using the company's existing Active Park Assist technology.


As with Active Park Assist, the new system will seek a suitable parallel parking space using ultrasonic sensors. After shifting into neutral, the driver can activate the system via a button in the car or from outside using the key fob remote. The system then takes control of the steering, forward and reverse motion and braking to guide the vehicle into a spot.


According to Ford, the system allows squeezing into a space that’s only 20 percent longer than the overall vehicle length. In addition to saving adjacently parked cars from dings by parallel parkers that use the “pinball” method, Ford believes that the Fully Assisted Parking Aid could help free up extra parking lost by when drivers take up too much space.

 

These two new technologies are part of Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford’s (Henry Ford’s great-grandson) Blueprint for Mobility, which seeks to find solutions to traffic congestion and what the Ford heir has described as “global gridlock” as the world’s population is predicted to become increasingly urbanized.


But for now, the technologies can help avoid accidents and the deaths, injuries and the traffic backups that result-- and maybe also waiting for a slowpoke to parallel park.


[Source: Ford Europe]
96Comments
Oct 9, 2013 7:24AM
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I have never found parking a vehicle, parallel or otherwise, difficult...are people really this inept...
Oct 9, 2013 7:24AM
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Lowering the standards for driving so the idiots and lazy can drive.
Oct 9, 2013 7:39AM
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The whole concept is stupid... put your resources to better use.  If a driver can't park...even parallel park, they should not be on the road at all.  There are certain skill sets every driver needs and these are part of that.
Oct 9, 2013 7:57AM
Oct 9, 2013 7:55AM
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if people can't park a car, they really have no business being behind the wheel.  i did actually see a girl driving on our interestate with her left leg hanging out the driver's door window,  draped over her rear view mirror.  I almost wrecked trying to imagine exactly how she got into that position and was still driving!  Some of these idiots are certifiable - but they are a comic relief when you're stuck in traffic:)!!!
Oct 9, 2013 8:37AM
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Have you ever had cars on both sides of your vehicle park so close you can't get in? Having the remote to pull out of the space sounds good to me.
Oct 9, 2013 7:54AM
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Now, if it will go get me some beer and cigarettes at the store by itself I'll be impressed!
Oct 9, 2013 7:59AM
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Useless technology to make drives even less skilled.

If you don't have the skills to do something as simple as parallel park, then you should not be allowed to drive a car.  That is the way driving test used to be.  Fail the test, you didn't get a license.  RETAKE. 

 

I literally stood downtown Jackson Mississippi and timed a guy once I noticed him.  He took 6 minutes to parallel park in a space large enough for a extended SUV.  The guy kept backing up onto the curb, nowhere near being in the park zone.  I just shook my head laughing and hoped I would not have to drive by him on the streets. 

Oct 9, 2013 7:58AM
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have we actually gotton so fat in this world that we can no longer fit between two cars in a parking space?!?!?!
Oct 9, 2013 8:34AM
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If I was in the market for a new car, a car that parallel itself is the last feature I'd be shopping for. Another overpriced feature that only a handful of people need, to drive up the price of the car.

 

I'd much rather have a car that starts, runs and is comfortable to ride in. I have a hard time buying into any system that applies the brakes for me, parks for me or steers for me.

 

Is auto parking anything more than a silly gimmick? I don't think so. Not interested, in the least.

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