2013 Ford Escape Uses Bouncing Balls, Shopping Carts to Test Hands-Free Liftgate

The 2013 Ford Escape literally kicks it up a notch by featuring an easy-opening liftgate that opens with a kicking motion. To make sure the system works flawlessly, engineers tested it against some of the craziest scenarios that could happen to Escape owners.

2013 Escape tests involved everything from dogs to shopping carts and carwashes, so drivers can have comfort knowing they won’t experience any impromptu liftgate openings. Ford and supplier Brose rolled balls underneath the Escape’s bumper, had dogs run underneath it, and even rolled shopping carts into it to see if such scenarios tripped up the sensor. Engineers also tested against extreme weather conditions. “We tested the system in various settings, including at minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit in our climate chamber to freeze the bumper,” said Dominik Nical, a Ford engineer in Germany. “We saw no unintended openings, and it still opened when the test subject needed it to.”

Sensors located between the tailpipes underneath the center of the rear bumper activate, unlock, and raise the liftgate when they detect a gentle kicking motion. The sensors are programmed to detect both the shin and kicking motion of the driver’s leg and, to further prevent unintended openings, the system only works if the driver has the Escape key fob.

“The system is very robust,” Nical said. “It is designed to detect a kicking motion without deploying when other scenarios occur, making the customer confident in the technology.”

The feature debuts in the U.S. on the 2013 Escape crossover, which is available with three engines: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder making 168 horsepower, a 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbo four making 178 horsepower, and a 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo-four making 270 horsepower. However, the technology could be used with other touch and gesture tech that Ford is currently testing.

Check out the many ways the liftgate was tested in the video below.


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2013 Ford Escape

2013 Ford Escape

MSRP $32,120 Titanium AWD


22 City / 31 Hwy

Cargo (Std/Max):

NA / 68.1 cu. ft.