Frankfurt Motorshow: Ford shows off the technology coming to its 2012 ranges

By Andrew Rafter,

The Frankfurt Motorshow finally closed yesterday after a gargantuan two and a half-week run at the Frankfurt Messe. We were given the opportunity to go the Frankfurt Motorshow – not only were we invited, we were expected to drive one of Ford’s new Focus Estate’s from Paris to Frankfurt.

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On our journey we took in the sights of Paris, Reims, Saarlouis and Frankfurt. This gave us plenty of time to absorb, fiddle and play with some of the amazing technology that can be found in the new Ford Focus.

We’ve already road-tested the new Focus a few months ago – but this time were given the keys to the new wagon version – or as we call it in the UK – the Estate.

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Over the course of the 3-day drive we tested every conceivable piece of technology that this car has on offer; from the Parking assist, Lane Departure, My Key, Door Edge Protector and Active City Stop.

During our long journey we thought we give the Ford Focus Estate a proper real-world road test of all of its tech. Our first port of call was the lane departure system. Now when using this system on a motorway we were pleasantly surprised how the system gradually steered us back in our lane with little or no fuss. In many cases you barely even know it’s there when it’s set to intervention mode.

But how would it fair on a b-road in the French countryside and on proper a corner? Well surprisingly well, if you aimlessly drift across the white line whilst on a corner the system it applies a respectable amount of turn to bring you back to where you should be. The system is very clever and over the course of a journey if you keep straying out of lane the dashboard shows a coffee icon to suggest it might be time for you to take a break.

The Parking assist function is probably the coolest piece of tech that you’ll find in any car under the £20,000. Basically, all have to do is press the button, drive past a parking space (slowly) and the computer ping’s with a message saying that a parking space has been found.

Now comes the leap of faith; you take your hands of the steering wheel and you control the accelerator, brakes and clutch – then with a wing and a prayer the car parks itself. To give you an idea of how good this system is, Ford set a rather clever challenge where we were tasked to try and beat the car when it comes to the difficult challenge of parallel parking. I think I’m a pretty good driver and an even better parker.

So, I was confident that I could beat any computer, even one as good as the Focus’. The winner would be the blogger who could get the car park within a space and, most importantly, closest the curb. Rather embarrassingly I failed and failed miserably. The car won and won by a margin of 20 inches.

Another piece of tech Ford was excited to announce was their new My Key tech. Although the system has been available in the US for a while now MyKey is finally making its way to Europe.

The My Key is a intelligent key that can be pre-programmed for teenage drivers. So when you give the car to one of your children they will be subject to much stricter set of conditions than the main driver normally would face.

For instance if the passengers seatbelts are not fastened the volume to that all important cool car stereo will be muted. It’s a clever carrot and stick approach to promote safe driving. Elsewhere the main driver can limit the top speed of a car; so the less experience driver won’t be able to go above the corresponding national speed limits.

With excessive speed being the cause of 30% of accidents involving young male drivers and 21% of all female drivers in Europe. The technology, which will be rolled out across Ford’s entire European range after the Fiesta, lets parents pre-program a master key that sets various limits on the vehicle. Top speed settings can be limited, with warnings beeping at 70, 90 or 100kph. Failure to fasten seatbelts can also activate a chime and mute the audio system.

In an Opinion Matters survey conducted last month, 53% of those who would consider purchasing MyKey also said they would allow their children to use the family vehicle more often if it were equipped with the new technology.

Ford is hoping that this piece of technology will, one day, become a system that will actually reduce your insurance premium when insuring teenagers on the family car.

The final piece of tech that Ford had on offer was their Door Edge Protector – and it might well be the simplest, but it’s probably our favourite. There’s nothing worse than scratching your car when you’ve parked in a tight spot – or worse – scratching another person’s car when the kids get in and out of the car.

If you have regularly scratch your door in the your garage at a work or at the supermarket then you will love the Door Edge Protector. Most impressive is the system is completely hidden when the door is closed – meaning you won’t be compromising the looks of your car.

The Door Edge Protector really does solve the problem a protective flap concealed in the door that pops out when the door opens providing a buffer that prevents damage to your car or anyone else’s. The Door Edge protector debuts in the 2012 Ford Focus.