If you live in an urban area, parallel parking is an accepted, if annoying, aspect of driving. Even the best drivers rarely escape without an occasional scrape or dent. Bad drivers often have cars that look like they’ve been in a demolition derby.
Apparently Paris has more than its share of bad drivers, or at least drivers who can’t parallel park. Ford of Europe used that circumstance to demonstrate the new Active Park Assist feature on the Focus by setting up a giant pinball prank on a busy Paris street – with the worst driver being rewarded with a major prize.
If you’ve seen the American show Bait Car, you know that cars parked on the street are not always exactly as they appear. In the case of the Ford Pinball Prank, the company, in cooperation with advertising agency Ogilvy Paris, created its own bait, a vacant, but very tight, parking space. On either side of the parking space, specially equipped cars were parked that lit up a pinball scoreboard sign posted above the parking space whenever they were struck. Ford and Ogilvy also set up video cameras to capture all the action.
One by one, eager drivers attempted to park their cars, every one lighting up the pinball scoreboard at least once. Along with the score, the board offered commentary such as “Brutal!” “Crunch!” “Clumsy.” and “Cruel.” The driver making the worst parking attempt was rewarded with a “New Record” along with the title as the Worst Driver – and the keys to a brand new Focus. The lucky driver then attempted to park the Focus in the same parking place. Thanks to the Active Park Assist system, the car slid effortlessly into the parking space, never even touching the other cars.
Focus to the Rescue
Ford of Europe and Ogilvy used the drivers’ mishaps to create an amusing video that runs just under two minutes long and serves as an online ad for the Focus and the Active Park Assist system. The Active Park Assist System is designed to make it easier for drivers to parallel park in tight spots – without lighting up a pinball billboard. The feature has been available since 2009 on several Ford models, including the Focus, Escape, Flex and Explorer. The Active Park Assist System is also available on the luxury Lincoln MKS and MKT models.
To activate the feature, drivers press a button on the car’s instrument panel whenever they reach an area where they want to park. Sensors located on the front and rear of the car scope out potential spaces to find a spot that is large enough to accommodate the car. When a suitable parking spot is located, the ultrasonic-based sensing system, along with the electric power-assisted steering, abbreviated as EPAS, take over the steering to guide the car into the parking spot. While the Active Park Assist System takes over the steering of the car, the driver still operates the gas and brake pedals, along with shifting the transmission.
The system represents an advance over camera-based parking assist systems on competing models offered by Lexus. Besides requiring less driver control, the Ford system is less likely to spot parking spaces that are actually too small for the vehicle. The Ford system also works when parking on a slope, unlike parking assist systems for competing manufacturers.
For Further Reading
• Ford’s Awesomely Cool Parisian Pinball Park Prank
• Ford Paris: the Pinball Park Challenge
• Ford Makes Parallel Parking a Breeze With New Active Park Assist
• The Parisian Pinball Prank
• The 2012 Ford Focus Offers Active Park Assist
Guest post contributed by Elizabeth Bailey on behalf of Silver Star Mercedes-Benz. Elizabeth is an automotive freelance writer. She has been involved in car design and writes for various online automotive blogs.