I admit it, Active Park Assist was the one feature of the Ford Escape that made me nervous.
You give over control of the car to a computer which is using sensors to determine distance, angle and rotation. Then letting it make all the decisions to delicately placing your vehicle between 2 other people’s vehicle.
Now I’m not saying computers can’t do that better than most people, I’m not even saying they can’t do it better than me. (Though I do parallel park like a boss!) I am saying I wasn’t going to try this blind without someone there to show me exactly what to do. There are 3 expensive vehicles involved in this process after all and I’m supposed to, required to, take my hands off the wheel so the car itself can squeezing my high-priced toy between one guy’s ego and another guy’s source of income, without doing damage to any of them.
That is a financial risk I’m not entirely comfortable testing without guidance. And while I love this video, I didn’t count it as sufficient “guidance”.
So I got a hands on demo before I left Toronto. We found 2 cars on a quiet street, aligned the Escape, and I pushed the button. I drove past the spot, watching and listening for traffic, pedestrians, pets, and “my surroundings” as the monitor suggests. Until the system told me to stop. I put the car in reverse and took my hands off the wheel.
The steering wheel took on a life of it’s own spinning wildly to the right as I felt the car starting to backup. Then the wheel spun spin wildly to the left, and I watched the monitor as the car behind me got closer. Then a big green bar was superimposed on the screen. We moved closer and a big yellow bar appeared.
We kept moving backwards, and then the screen had a big red bar, and…
Holy Crap what just happened?!?
Well, we all know what happened. Luckily, both cars were just fine and the only damage was to my ego! Thank goodness for Frederick Simms (the guys who invented bumpers.)
But what happened? Well, it turns out that while my hands were supposed to be off the wheel, my feet were supposed to be on the pedals! Most daily drivers I tell this story to say “of course” though most occasional drivers I tell this to say “oh I guess that makes sense.”
Now, I love playing with technology and I did grew up with heavy duty “get back on the horse” doctrine. (We had ponies and I had to get back ON them, literally.) So the very next opportunity I had to parallel park, I was damned well going to show this Active Park Assist that I could drive it! Or more accurately that it could park me!
So when I found a spot on the narrow and quiet streets of Quebec City I was going for it. And go for it I did!
— Alexa Clark (@alexaclark) February 14, 2013
Just wait until you hear how I did in Montreal, after a snow storm, at night, on a busy street with folks trying to weasel into the spot from behind me.
PERFECTLY thank you very much!