Ford Fusion Intros New Driver Assists

We’re not at the point yet when cars drive themselves. But, automotive engineers are slowly marching along on the path toward safety precautions that come very close.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

This week, Ford announced out of Dearborn upgrades to the Ford Fusion including some very advanced Driver Assist Technologies.

The Fusion is the first midsize sedan with a Lane-Keeping System with Driver Alert, adaptive cruise control, collision warning, Blind Spot Information System, cross-traffic alert, collision warning and a rear view camera.

The idea is to offer up all of these features – the kind of driving tools you’d expect to find in a Mercedes Benz, a BMW or an Audi in a Ford Fusion that most working folks can afford.

According to Ford’s demo announcement, a package of radar, ultrasonic, optical and motion sensors in every Fusion transitions beyond passive safety technology to offer tech that keeps Ford drivers from ping-ponging around traffic Bump ’em Car style.

The Lane-Keeping System uses a forward-facing camera that scans the road surface for lane markings, evaluating if the car is drifting out of its lane before alerting the driver by vibrating the steering wheel. If the driver fails to respond to the vibrations, the system adds steering torque to push the car back to the center of the lane.

The Driver Alert System uses that front-facing camera to detect a pattern of vehicle motion consistent with a driver lacking proper awareness. It provides a series of alerts to tell the driver to knock it off and rest for awhile. The visual alert posts a coffee cup icon in the instrument cluster with a tone to match.

Pull-Drift Compensation built into the electric power-assisted steering counters the effects of steeply crowned roads or steady crosswinds. It detects if the Fusion is “changing direction even if the steering angle sensor indicates the driver is not commanding this change.” The system the then provides gradual steering corrections that keep the car moving where the driver wants everything go.

Adaptive cruise control is one of the eerier new tools available to a driver. To feel your car accelerating and slowing on its own to match the distance of the car in front of it is a lesson in reduced personal control, even if it is an increase in safety. It uses a radar sensor that measures the distance and speed to the vehicle ahead. If the sensors detect the following distance is shrinking too quickly and a collision is likely, the system provides a visual and audio alert so the driver can respond by steering or braking.

Active park assist is an option allowing the electric power-assisted steering and ultrasonic sensors at the corners of the car to measure the gap between parked cars to see if there is enough room. Then the car is automatically steered into the space. The driver applies the accelerator and brake.

Of all the tech in this piece, this tool is more a sign of a driving apocalypse. The ability to parallel park is one of the measurements of human competence. By losing this essential test, we’re all losing a bit of our soul.

But, heading uptown again, the Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert will save a life. It uses radar sensors in the rear corners that monitor the spaces beside and behind the car.

While driving, these sensors trigger a warning light in the mirror warning there is a vehicle in the blind spot. When backing out of a parking space, these same sensors can see vehicles approaching while the back-up camera provides a view behind the rear bumper.

All of this tech was first introduced at last year’s Forward with Ford event and is now finding it way into the vehicle line.

(But, honestly, I’ll never use the Parking Assist. And, if you have any blood in your body at all, neither will you.)