AutoMatters+: Electronic driver aids — 2015 Ford Fusion

After I attended the LA Auto Show, Ford contacted me to see if I was interested in taking a 24-hour test drive of their new Fusion during their “Live. Drive. Love." promotion. They sweetened their offer with the promise of a $75 VISA debit card. How could I say no?

I made an appointment and then picked up a very-well-equipped, 2015 Ford Fusion Titanium EcoBoost from Bill Bayne, the fleet and EV sales manager of Kearny Pearson Ford in San Diego. I was particularly interested in experiencing the Fusion’s optional, state-of-the-art electronic driver aids.

I’ve experienced these features before, but only during brief, supervised demonstrations at car shows and other special events. I knew that I would be better able to experience the features and benefits of these electronic driver aids if I were driving on my own and to familiar places.

The adaptive cruise control is a huge safety improvement over regular cruise control. As Ford says, “it functions like normal cruise control with one exception. When adaptive cruise control sensors detect traffic slowing immediately ahead of you, your vehicle also slows down, based on your preset distance. When its sensors detect traffic has cleared, your vehicle returns to the set speed.” This really works. It was amazing. While on the freeway, I set my speed to 65 mph. It maintained that speed until I approached (but was still well back from) another car in my lane. Almost imperceptibly, my Fusion slowed and matched the speed of the car ahead. When that car exited the freeway, my car speeded back up to 65 mph.

“Forward collision warning with brake support can alert you if it senses a potential collision with the car in front of you. A heads-up display, which simulates brake lights, flashes on the windshield. If you don’t react in time, the brakes will precharge and increase brake-assist sensitivity to provide full responsiveness when you brake.”

In their description of the optional Active Park Assist on their website (http://www.ford.com/cars/fusion/trim/titanium/), Ford explains: “While you’re driving slowly near parking spots, simply activate available active park assist and it looks for an available parking spot. Ultrasonic sensors measure the distance to the curb and between parked cars. Once an appropriate spot is identified, you’re signaled to stop and accept the system’s assistance. You control the shifting, accelerating and braking.”

I must tell you, letting the car do the steering while I operated the gas and the brakes was intimidating. These were my neighbors’ cars that I was trying to park between! While backing up and turning, I noticed that the system placed the Fusion very close to the outside rear corner of the vehicle that I was parking behind. That is no doubt how it is able to help you park the car in a minimum of space. According to Bill, he has managed to park cars with as little as a foot in front and behind. However, he also told me that the distance that the Fusion will be from the curb depends upon how far the car you’re parking behind is from the curb. When I tried parking behind a vehicle that was literally against the curb, my Fusion backed into the curb and was stopped by it. I tried a second time and that time I was successful.

The optional BLIS (Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert) warns the driver, via a yellow light in the corner of each outside mirror, that a vehicle is very close to you. This is essential information for the driver to have in order to safely change lanes. However, I would prefer to be notified earlier as the other vehicle approaches.

Also optional, the Lane Keeping System warns the driver about unintentional lane departures, via mild vibrations in the steering wheel. On the freeway, it feels like driving over very small rumble strips. It also “applies steering torque, which alerts you to direct your vehicle back into the target lane, should the system detect an unintended lane departure.” I only felt this happen once. It was extremely gentle and barely noticeable.

There are proximity sensors all around and a backup camera with helpful boundary lines.

Remember that all of these are only driver aids. They do not replace the driver — but they are useful tools.

As always, please write to AutoMatters@gmail.com with your comments and suggestions.

Copyright © 2014 by Jan Wagner

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