Ford showed off prototype cars with two new technologies in Europe. One system allows the car to park itself without any human interaction, while the other helps drivers avoid stopped cars or pedestrians.
Although Ford already offers several models with a self-parking feature that can steer the car into a parallel-parking spot, the Fully Assisted Parking Aid demonstrated in Europe goes one step farther. Drivers can exit the car and command it to park using a smartphone app; the car's computer automatically controls the throttle, brake, and automatic transmission.
Fully Assisted Parking Aid searches for spaces when the Ford is traveling at speeds up to 18 mph. The driver must hold a button the entire time the car parks itself, so that he or she can easily stop the car if there's a problem. Because the system can maneuver into spaces just 20 percent longer than the car, Ford says the feature could be a boon to urban drivers jostling for small parking spots. The video below shows the system in action.
Both Volvo and Audi have demonstrated similar systems that allow cars to park themselves without a driver on board.
Ford also demonstrated a new active-safety feature called Obstacle Avoidance, which uses three radar sensors, ultrasonic sensors, and a camera to monitor for hazards in the current lane. If it spots a hazard, such as a stopped car, a pedestrian, or a stationary object like a rock, the system sounds an alarm to prompt the driver to take action. If the driver doesn't act, Obstacle Avoidance automatically brakes and then steers the car around the hazard. Ford says this system could help prevent many accidents, as German traffic data show only a third of drivers try to steer around a potential collision.
Obstacle Avoidance currently works at speeds up to 38 mph and scans for objects more than 650 feet away from the car. Like Fully Assisted Parking Aid, it is simply a technology demonstration for now, but both features could eventually be offered on future Ford products.