Ford Active Park Assist SystemS

Ford announced its new Active Park Assist system before the Detroit Auto Show, but here, in one of McCormick Place's many labyrinthine parking garages, is the first time we've tested it.

To be perfectly fair, we've never successfully used an automatic parallel parking system. On a lark once, we tried out the Lexus GS system and never actually got it to parallel park. We got frustrated somewhere in the middle of the process and gave up, parallel parking in manual mode, which means with our hands and eyes.
We strolled down to the McCormick South parking garage, hopped into the awaiting MKS, and after a very brief bout of instruction from Ford chassis engineer Ali Jammoul we were off to the races. To engage the system you press the park button in the center console; as you drive past a line of parked cars the system uses a long range ultrasonic sensor to measure empty spaces and decide if the car will fit. When it has found a suitable space the driver information center dings to let you know it has one. It then directs you to pull forward until it's happy with the car's position, then directs you to stop and shift into reverse. At this point it's an entirely hands-off affair - press the gas and the car turns the steering wheel itself, providing seamless, parking-professional-level steering. The backup sensors pick up the proximity of the car behind and you brake to a stop, shift into drive and the car tucks you into the spot.

Ford Active Park Assist SystemS

Ford Active Park Assist SystemS

Ford Active Park Assist SystemS

Ford Active Park Assist SystemS


Admittedly, the space here is enormous, estimated at vehicle length plus 60%, but Jammoul assured us the car would easily navigate a space only 20% longer than the car. However, the whole process is so simple and effective as to be almost creepy. This is something which will cause a driver's parallel parking skills to atrophy. Even though it's a gadget we don't particularly want in a car, it's still very impressive.