Test Drive: New Ford keeps drivers in their lanes

Technology warns driver when car is drifting

ORLANDO, Fla. - The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid is more than just another fuel frugal greenmobile.  Sure, it gets good mileage (EPA-rated 47 mpg city and highway) but it also knows the road like few other cars in its class.  The vehicle is equipped bumper to bumper with sensors that can warn the driver about everything from blind spot dangers, rear end collisions, and, using the latest technology developed by Ford, the car features a lane drifting avoidance mechanism that physically keeps the driver from accidentally crossing lanes.

Ford Motor Company recently introduced its Lane-Keeping System and other Driver Assist technologies in Orlando.  The Lane-Keeping System is based in a camera mounted behind the Fusion's rearview mirror.  The camera detects lane lines on the road, and if a driver starts to veer or cross a lane line the system activates an alert that few drivers have ever experienced.  First, the steering wheel will begin to vibrate; the sensation makes the car feel like it's hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road.  If that doesn't work, another technology kicks in: the system actually puts torque into the steering wheel to lightly pull or tug the driver back into the correct lane.

The Lane-Keeping System, according to Ford, was developed with drowsy drivers in mind.  The U.S. government conservatively estimates that drowsy driving causes around 100,000 crashes, 1500 fatalities, and between 60,000 to 70,000 injuries a year.  Ford's technology measures in algorithms the kind of drifting, swerving, and other irregularities the driver is causing while behind the wheel; when the driver reaches a certain threshold of danger, the system creates an audible alert and dashboard icons suggesting rest.  Or coffee.  One of the icons resembles a hot cup of Joe.

"We're trying to bring this technology to a wide audience," said Ford's Michael Kane.

Bringing the technology to a wide audience means making it available to a mid-price vehicle market, Kane said, noting that the latest in safety technology is more commonly available in luxury brands.  The Ford Fusion Hybrid and non-hybrid Fusion equipped with the Lane-Keeping  System and Driver Assist both price out under $30,000.  A package with the same technology is also available on some other Ford models as a $1200 option.

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