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Cars just got smarter: smart technology in the Ford Fusion

Straight off the bat I can confidently say I’m not the target market for the Ford Fusion. I have a Ford Ranger double cab for towing a horsebox on the weekends and spend my week days destroying a little Nissan Tiida (I drive between 100 and 130kms a day in peak hour Johannesburg traffic). I’m not going to be spending just under half a bar on a luxury Sedan.

Ford has launched the Fusion to the local market and are touting it as their new flagship vehicle. This matters to me because it usually means many of the features in the flagship trickle their way down to the cheaper vehicles – the ones I buy to drive to death during my weekdays (they’ll also likely pop up in a new Ranger at some point, but my love of a bakkie isn’t of any interest to you).

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I don’t care about torque. I wouldn’t know if something handles well around turns. I care about the shiny buttons that make my life a little bit easier. This is my view on technology and gadgets in general. With the Ford Fusion the car company has introduced a host of new tech to make the ride a little bit smoother. Let’s take a look at the smart technology in the Ford Fusion and what is on offer:

SYNC 2

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Despite knowing better, I spend most of my driving time on my phone. Calling friends, colleagues and clients to plan strategies or arrange meetings. I record voice notes of ideas I have and things I need to do. Driving, for me, equals dead time. I’m trying to make it a bit more productive. When I’m not on the phone I’m jumping between Deezer on said smartphone and my iPod. Unplugging, plugging and generally focusing on getting my tunes to play rather than driving. SYNC 2 is an in car connectivity system. I’ve used SYNC in the Ford Kuga and it is simple to connect devices either via Bluetooth or USB. The Fusion has two USB ports so you can charge your phone while listening to tunes off your iPod.

SYNC 2 lets you browse and play music with voice commands, make hands-free calls, send and receive audible text messages, control the aircon in the car with your voice and also map your route beforehand on your PC and then send the directions directly to the SYNC system. In short it is Siri on steroids and really deserves an article to itself.

Pre-Collision Assist with Heads Up Display

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By rights if you’re in the Ford Fusion you should be using SYNC and not sitting on your phone. But, for the sake of painting a picture, imagine that person tapping furiously away on Whats App while creeping forward in the traffic. She doesn’t look up in time and ends up rear ending the car in front of her. The Fusion is fitted with cameras and radar tech around the vehicle. With Active City Stop, in situations like the above it will automatically apply the brakes to stop you colliding with the vehicle ahead.

Say you don’t like using voice commands and are cruising along the highway fiddling with your touch screen and not paying attention. The Pre-Collision Assist starts by flashing red LED lights just in front of the steering wheel, this is followed by an audible warning (but maybe by now you’re arguing with your significant other about how to get the bass sorted and didn’t hear). After this the system then shortens the time required to apply the breaks (by reducing the gap between the brake pads and discs), if there is still no response from the driver the brakes are applied and vehicle speed is reduced.

Fancy feature but I figure most Jozi drivers will switch it off. One too many taxi drivers cutting in front of you in peak hour traffic, constant red flashing lights and audible warnings – you’ll get annoyed.

Active Park Assist

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Remember that Ranger I mentioned? It’s a bitch to park. The size is intimidating and without even realising it I’ve become extremely nervous about parking any vehicle. I always feel like my depth judgements are completely off. Also, I never parallel park. I’d rather park 3 blocks away then even try. The Ford Fusion is able to park without your help. It will put itself in to a parallel parking space and alley dock in the mall as well. If you’re extremely stressed about parallel parking it will even take itself out of the parking when you leave. You’re basically just there to control the pedals. Part of this includes Side Parking Aid which warns you of obstacles to the side of your car and behind and in front of you.

Locally, we’ve got so many parking guards trying to help you out of your spot that the Side Parking Aid goes off like a noisy Christmas tree. Between you and me – active park assist is fun to play with but I’m still not comfortable enough to trust a machine to think for itself. I’ll be honest I’ve never seen it NOT get it right, but there is a part of me that just cannot relinquish control… despite being nervous about parking.

Lane Keeping Aid

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So if you start to drift towards the lane marking, for whatever reason, the Fusion detects this and guides your car back into the lane. The display also notifies you of “driver fatigue” (picked up via your driving habits. Also, if you are just a bad driver it may mistake that for fatigue). Between this and the active park assist, we’re almost at the point where these cars are going to drive themselves.

The tech I don’t get: Traffic Sign Recognition

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The name is pretty self explanatory. I don’t get this feature. I understand how it could help but I’m not sure I’d use it. The traffic sign recognition shows you the latest detected speed limit, cancellation signs and overtaking restrictions via the display in the vehicle by screening traffic signs as you drive past. You, as the driver, should be taking note of those anyway.

The tech I thought was rather nifty: MyKey

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MyKey allows you to program your spare key and restrict certain functions in the Ford Fusion. So you can inhibit incoming phone calls, restrict the top speed, stop someone using the key from deactivating the driver assistance and safety features, reduce the maximum volume of the music in the car and disable the whole system (i.e. not let the car start) if the driver and passengers are not using seatbelts. It’s the ideal tech feature for parents of teenagers hitting the 18 year old mark or if you’re significant other seems to think he is a bit of a Formula One Driver when, in fact, he’d be better off in a push cart.

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There is a lot of smart technology in the Ford Fusion. Each and every feature (even the ones I’m not so sure about) has been designed with a purpose and with safety at the forefront. Considering we’re guiding small metal missiles along tar roads – this is a good thing. I think, most importantly, you don’t need to be tech savvy or a petrolhead to use the tech in the car. The average woman on the street is going to find the car’s tech easy to set up and use.

Ford did give me a day to drive around the Cape to test out the smart technology in the Ford Fusion. I’ll be honest, I barely played with the buttons. I was too busy enjoying a really smooth ride… and that is something coming from me because I usually HATE driving.

Disclosure: My trip to Cape Town to test drive the Fusion was covered by Ford (this included meals and accommodation). 

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