2012 Ford Focus’ Active Park Assist teases the sweet future of car automation

Normally I only get to play with electronic products that fit inside a brown bag, at most, a couriers box. When Ford Australia offered me to test drive a new car, the offer was simply too good to pass up even if I’m not an expert in wheels. Especially when it comes in red.

The 2012 model Ford Focus, available now (in 2011) around the world including Australia, caught my eye not because of its style or performance – both of which it has but neither I’m qualified to critique, but because it signals the start of an utopian dream only a decade ago, a car that could park itself and potentially drive itself.

Granted more complicated camera-based automatic parking systems has been available for a couple years now, the fact that Ford’s Active Park Assist requires zero driver input now on a more affordable and mainstream car like the Focus is a testament to just how fast the car industry is adopting new technologies.

Although I’ve never been bothered by reverse parking, the fact that I can press a button and follow some simple prompts to do it perfectly every time without adjustment is an option I would choose every time (and I did the dozen times during my week’s drive).

I can’t begin to imagine how much more this is worth to someone who would have otherwise avoided reverse parking altogether.

Noted the system currently has its limitations – it can only reverse into a spot if there is a car in-front and doesn’t detect a viable parking spot if you don’t initialize it before a whole car length away, it works well enough and can only get better over time. Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised when it also works equally well for driver-side parking spots in one-way streets which I have a lot less experience in.

I must admit, sitting in the driver’s seat and watching the steering wheel turn by itself is both awesome and surreal at the same time. Check out the video demo from my roadtrip to the Great Ocean Road (pictured above).

7 insightful thoughts

  1. Funnily enough, my girlfriend just took delivery of her B Class Mercedes that appears to have pretty much the exact same system –
    Relying on having to parallel park between two cars, rather than just one… etc…

    Its fun enough, but as I discovered last night when trying to demonstrate it, temperamental in the rain :-)

  2. This feature has been available to Toyota Prius sold in Japan since 2006. It has been available in the US on the third generation Prius and most Lexus models for a few years as well. Other automated driving features, such as active lane keeping control and adaptive cruise control, have also been available on Lexus and Mercedes. Ford came to this game much later than those Japanese and European automakers.

  3. The automated parking concept is not bad, but i still prefer holden. I was surprise to find out that some car companies have started manufacturing V10 and V12 engines. I wrote about this on my blog, feel free to have a look.

  4. What you should have done is drove near the edge of a cliff and jump out the car and let the car keep on going off the edge of the cliff! Thats what I did with my Ford car back in 1985 when I decided I had had enough of it because of all it’s faults! xD

    1. You sound like one of those people that say “I have never tried IE9, but it must suck because I hate IE6.”

      I have never understood this logic.

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