Active Park Assist
Automatic parallel parking makes the New Ford Focus the easiest car to park
Parallel parking is the bane of many drivers' lives. Even experienced drivers that have been on the road for many years have been known to avoid parking spaces if the only option is to perform a parallel park. With Active Park Assist in the new Ford Focus, this problem is relegated to history.
With this new system, Focus owners can let the car take over spotting the right space and the actual manoeuvring into it. In order to do this accurately, the car has to take full control of the steering wheel. This wouldn’t have been possible on previous models of the car as they used hydraulic power steering; now, every new Focus comes equipped with electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) as standard, allowing the on-board computer to make precise adjustments to the turning circle as required.
Cars equipped with Active Park Assist have several lasers integrated into each body panel, which measure the gaps between parked vehicles; because these super-accurate sensors are fitted on both sides of the car, the system will work with parking spaces on either side of the road. It is so precise that a gap only needs to be around 1.2 times the length of the car - in other words, if it looks like there’s room to fit in a space, you’ll probably be able to park there. Unlike a manual parallel park, which can often require multiple attempts if the driver misjudges the angle of approach, the on-board computer can precisely calculate the amount of turn required. This should makes the first attempt the only one required, meaning the car isn’t obstructing other road users for any longer than is necessary.
When approaching an unoccupied parking space, the driver enables the system by pressing the corresponding button on the dashboard centre console. Once activated, the sensors begin scanning for a suitable gap. Ideally this should be done several meters before pulling alongside the chosen space, to give the car enough time to accurately measure the available distance. When a large enough space is found, a chime sounds through the car stereo speakers and a message appears on the dashboard display, instructing the driver to stop and select reverse gear.
The driver may now take their hands off the steering wheel, as the car has full control over the angle of approach. Staying aware of other road users and potential hazards, they can slowly reverse as the car steers into the space.
Further sensors mounted in the rear bumper measure how close the car is getting to the vehicle behind. As well as an audible beep, the centre console screen displays a visual indicator of how much room the driver has while manoeuvring. Multiple sensors placed at different points in the bumper provide a much more accurate indicator than the single sensor systems usually found in family cars. This same technology will activate whenever reverse gear is selected, or the car is moving forward at a slow pace, making it equally useful when parking manually, parallel or otherwise.
When the reverse part of the manoeuvre has been completed, a second message will appear on the dashboard display, instructing the driver to select a forward gear. As they pull forward, the car continues to control the steering wheel until it is safely parked. One final message is shown on the dashboard, indicating the manoeuvre is complete. The entire process takes no longer than it should take an expert parallel parker, and in many cases will actually be quicker than attempting the same manually.
Although it’s been designed to take the stress out of parallel parking, Active Park Assist isn’t intended to be used as an auto-pilot. The driver is still in control of acceleration and changing gear, as well as applying the brakes. They must also take care to check their surroundings, as they would if parking manually. In spite of this, it still simplifies one of the most challenging aspects of everyday driving. Particularly useful in urban environments where parking space is at a premium, Active Park Assist is the ideal driver aid for anyone lacking the confidence to park completely without assistance.
The electric power-assisted steering technology required for the system to work is installed on every model in the range, but only the Titanium and Titanium X editions are available with Active Park Assist. On the Titanium model this is part of the Convenience Pack, a £525 option. The pack also includes electrically assisted folding wing mirrors, which will keep them out of the path of passing vehicles when parking on busy roads. All of the Convenience Pack features, including both Active Park Assist and folding wing mirrors, are included on the Titanium X edition as standard.