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Semi-Automatic Parallel Parking With Active Park Assist

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Ford offers Active Park Assist as a $695 option on its 2012 Ford Focuses, along with its larger vehicles. Active Park Assist is, as the name implies, a parking assistance system that helps the driver parallel park. You might think of it as a novelty if you can already parallel park well, but it's actually a cool feature that does work.

Cars equipped with Active Park Assist employ ultra-sonic sensors on the front and rear bumpers to help the system calculate available space. It requires very little driver input, aide from gas and brakes. 

Simply, you push a button as you approach the parallel parking area, and the system figures out the rest. When a suitable spot is detected, Active Park Assist tells you to put the car in reverse or drive. Your job is to cautiously feather the gas and brake pedals, since the system only controls the steering wheel. Truly, if you crash while using this feature, it's your own fault.

Unfortunately, our 2012 Ford Focus Titanium test mule did not come equipped with the Active Park Assist option. Fortunately, Korum Automotive Group in Puyallup, Wash., our local Ford and Lincoln dealership, stepped in to let us borrow a 2013 Lincoln MKS with Active Park Assist for a couple hours, allowing us to demonstrate the system in action.

Yes, the Lincoln MKS is a much larger car than Ford's Focus. However, the system works identically on both cars (along with other Ford and Lincoln vehicles), utilizing ultra-sonic sensors in the front and back of the car, along with a backup camera that shows where you’re going. If Active Park Assist can properly place a full-size Lincoln MKS, then parking a Focus should be even easier. 

We had Korum's car for two hours, and were able to test it in our makeshift parallel parking situation at the dealership. Again, the system works well and parked our car as expected, every time. We'll warn you: the first time at the wheel of a car navigating its way into a tight space is extremely unnerving. Active Park Assist has no problem getting really close to other cars, and it's constantly beeping. The sense that you're about to hit something is constant until you're fully parked. After a couple of test runs, however, trusting Active Park Assist to do its job, the process became much less stressful. At best, we were able to get the Lincoln MKS parked in less than two minutes. That might be too long if you're sticking out in traffic on a busy street. But for less rushed parking jobs, it's satisfactory.

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