Auto Tech: Ford Driver Assist Technology automotive technology health and safety car culture auto tech
Collision Warning. Click image to enlarge

Manufacturer’s web site
Ford Motor Company of Canada

By Jonathan Yarkony

Dearborn, MI – Ford is rather pleased with themselves these days, and understandably so. At a recent event they hosted, they talked up their advanced and efficient vehicle lineup when it comes to powertrain technology, citing eight vehicles with 40 mpg (as measured by EPA highway mileage testing, the equivalent of 5.9 L/100 km) or better by year’s end, better than GM/Toyota combined and seven vehicles with the smallest engine in segment—while maintaining outstanding performance. Honestly, I can’t argue with them on that one—while their turbocharged, direct-injected Ecoboost engines might not live up to advertised mileage, I have always found them to offer competitive and engaging performance. They are definitely living up to consumer’s overall expectations though, selling 100K more than expected so far through mid-2012, with 93 percent of all new 2013 Escapes leaving Ford lots with the 1.6 or 2.0 Ecoboost engines.

On the other hand, while their first attempt at a dual-clutch automated transmission has met with fierce criticism, it’s almost a perfect match to my style in sport mode, snapping off hard, quick shifts when you get on the throttle. Nonetheless, Ford is also proud that every vehicle features, at the very least, a six-speed transmission, whether in manual, automatic or the aforementioned “PowerShift” dual clutch automatic.

Auto Tech: Ford Driver Assist Technology automotive technology health and safety car culture auto tech
Ford C-Max. Click image to enlarge

Ford is also bringing a fully electric car to market in the Focus Electric, and a slew of new hybrids featuring lithium-ion battery power, including the C-Max compact people mover and popular Ford Fusion Hybrid. Ford’s hybrids and electric cars would take up a column of its own. All this goes hand in hand with fuel efficiency savings from weight reduction, improved aerodynamics, and efficient and adaptable electric power steering (EPAS—which comes into play in some of Ford’s advanced tech that will be discussed later).

However, the MyFord Touch system is surrounded by a storm of controversy as Ford owners are challenged by its sophisticated touchscreen interface controlling basic car functions like radio and climate control, a system that was hampered by plagued system restarts, slow responses, and voice control that did not work up to expectations. Ford’s JD Power and Associates ranking in the Initial Quality Survey suffered (they have ranked in the bottom third of brands for the past two years running) over the problems owner’s reported with this system, be they design flaws or functionality issues.

Ford’s solution was a comprehensive mailout to all owners that included a USB chip that would install system updates to correct the reliability and user experience issues. Owners also had the option to take it into a dealership to have the updates done there, although Ford reports that over 70 percent used the self-serve USB option. Although it won’t fix all of the issues overnight, it’s a step in the right direction and will help Ford maintain its reputation for delivering advanced in-car entertainment and media solutions in cars at all price points.

Auto Tech: Ford Driver Assist Technology automotive technology health and safety car culture auto tech
BLIS. Click image to enlarge

Beyond the in-car entertainment and connectivity technology, Ford introduced us to a range of current and future technologies that aim to assist the driver with their daily driving responsibilities.

Among the current technologies already available on a variety of Ford vehicles today are blind-spot detection (BLIS) with cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, drift-pull compensation, parallel park assistance, adaptive cruise control. Future cars will also feature perpendicular park assistance, and, eventually, a feature called Traffic Jam Assist. Another advanced technology Ford is working on is Driver Workload assistance, which will help cut distractions during complex driving situations.

All of the above driver assistance systems tap into the broad array of vehicle sensors (radar, video, and more) and electronic controls incorporated in the ABS, stability control, EPAS (power steering), and others to help maintain a safe distance from other cars and control of the car at all times. And each one seems to open up new possibilities.

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