Real-Life Car Pinball Showcases Ford’s New Technology

As a tech blog we receive hundreds of emails each week, mainly from marketing companies asking us to review their client’s latest product. We would therefore consider ourselves quite proficient in “marketing speak” but we have to confess that “brand pillars” is a new one to us. The four “pillars”, based on different technologies, over at car giant Ford are: Quality, Green, Safe and Smart.

To showcase these technologies, the company has created a number of videos and tests. For example, to demonstrate the effectiveness of their 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine and to prove how powerful it is, they took one to Nurburgring track and compared it (with favourable results) with a Ferrari Enzo!

This time around, they are keen to demonstrate their Active Park Assist technology, which helps steer you in to even the tightest of spaces. You simply push a button to kick in the car’s sensors which then, as you drive around, locate a big enough space to park in. It will then steer to you in to the space and all you have to do is follow the on-screen instructions and audible signals to operate the accelerator, gears and brake.

To put this to the test they went to the centre of Paris, where parking is notoriously hard to find and often very tight when you find a space. You can watch the video here:



These are just two of the technologies being put to the test. To fully demonstrate Ford’s other remarkable technologies, they have filmed a series of dramatic digital films which test the technologies in amazing ways. You can view these and find more information by heading over to Ford.

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

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.

Ford Focus Cam

Everyone knows that cars have some kind of electronics in them. Ford, however, has decided that we need to pay more attention to them. Especially considering the new Ford Focus has more features than a new BMW.

To publicise their technological prowess, the company has created the Focus Cam, hitting Hyde Park for your amusement on Saturday (for one week) as part of the UEFA Champions’ League festival.

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The Focus Cam is a unique way for people to have their photo taken – or rather, forty ways. You see, the Focus Cam is actually forty cameras (Nikon D300s, if you’re curious) strapped to a high-tech array and focussed on one point.

It uses the 40 cameras to take 40 pictures of you at the exact same time, at 40 different, rotated angles. The system then straps the images together and creates a rotating freeze-frame video that looks like the camera is moving around your frozen image – think Neo in the Matrix.

Starting on Saturday you – or a group of your friends – can head to Hyde Park, stand in shot, pull an action pose and be recorded, seemingly frozen in time.

Ford representatives will then give you a card telling you where to find your video on their website, so you can log-on and watch it online. You’ll also be able to post it to your Facebook wall, tweet it or – for those of us stuck in the 90s – e-mail it to a friend.

If you want instant gratification, staff will be on-hand to show your video instantly on an iPad, or you can use a wi-fi hotspot (installed inside a Ford Focus) to check on your smartphone. Cool.

The reason for the Focus Cam is to point out just how much technology goes inside Ford products. For instance, their auto-parking system uses sensors around the car to detect parking spaces, and then physically control your steering for your parallel park.

You’ll still have to control acceleration and breaking, but the computer takes care of any wheel-based action. We got to give it a try, and it’s unreal how good it is.

Parking assist comes as a £529 addition on the standard Focus price.

Ford Focus Electric at CES 2011

It seems Ford is turning greener by the second. Not only has it announced that its first ever zero emission all electric passenger car will be available in Europe and the US by 2013, but it will be produced for the US market at its Michigan plant, itself part powered using one of the largest solar energy generators in the western world.

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This is all good news of course. Even better news for those critics of electric power, is that this new car will have a top speed of 84 mph and countering one of the biggest drawbacks on electric vehicles – the 10 hour charge – a much reduced charging time of around 3-4 hours.

Until battery technology improves, extending the range between charges (it’s currently around 130 miles) interest in electric cars will remain with technology enthusiasts and conservationists. There is however a marked improvement in the number of UK public charging points (which can cost around £120 for annual use, although some boroughs offer them free), so, long distance driving is certainly becoming a reality.

The stylish 5 door hatchback Focus Electric we are assured, will ‘lose none of the dynamics and quality of driving a fuel driven car’  and it will contain one or two very clever tricks too, including off board remote access via Ford’s mobile app. So, you can check on your car’s charging status while making a cup of tea, pre set air conditioning so the car is nice and cool in summer when you first get in and snug and warm in winter and even remotely start the car and unlock the doors. The 15 spoke 17 inch alloys and nine speaker satellite radio and voice activated navigation system will appease those who pour scorn on EV’s as being dull and unstylish.

Another menace of electric cars is the loss of battery life in extreme weather conditions. This too had been addressed, with an active liquid cooling system that regulates the battery temperature, so on hot days the battery is cooled and warmed on cold days. The result is a much more consistent charge life which will make it a lot easier to drive between charging points. You also get some lovely electronic blue butterflies in your cluster display to represent your surplus range, so the more butterflies there are, the greater the range you have left. Combine these lovely creatures with the My Touch navigation system where you will be told where the nearest charging station is on your route and your bases are pretty much all covered.

So hopefully, no more electric driving at 10 miles an hour with the heater and radio turned off in order to reach your next charging point then. We live in hope.

By Andy Mossack