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). 

5 Comments

  • Reply Graeme Norval January 28, 2015 at 17:03

    I know I’m not the target audience here, being male and a car person, but I’m interested to hear if any of these features are seen as more than a novelty by anyone at all. From your article, we have:

    SYNC2: I’ve never used the system but it sounds pretty cool. However, as you mentioned in the Ford Kuga thing it is available on almost all Ford models so isn’t unique to the Fusion, and pretty much every new car has hands free calling and audio integration, certainly those in the R400k+ range, even if it is an extra cost option.

    Pre-collision assist: Very high-tech, but you said you’d switch it off or Joburg traffic would drive it crazy. I’ve read horror stories of the Mercedes version of the system throwing warnings when it misreads traffic as being oncoming when there is a split int he road and scaring it’s occupants half to death with the warnings. I know I’d probably feel safer with the system off. What is a good idea is the priming of the braking system if danger is detected (bringing the pad closer to the disc doesn’t sound like it would make much of a difference, they’re so close already, but what these systems usually do is increase the force of the brake booster because many drivers don’t realise how much pressure you need to apply to a brake pedal to get full stopping power from a car).

    Heads-up display: A heads-up display normally projects information onto the windscreen so that it looks like it is floating over the end of the bonnet, so the driver doesn’t have to look away from the road. It sounds like the Ford system is on the top of the dashboard which would require the driver to glance down slightly, which is probably the last thing they should be doing in an emergency situation.

    Active Park Assist: This is probably the highest tech system they presented on the car, but while many people are not comfortable with parking, they – like you – are probably not going to be comfortable letting the machine do all the thinking itself. I suppose the only way people will learn to trust the system is through occasional use as they become more commonplace, but I’d still rather people just re-learned how to park, because you could all do it when you passed your license.

    Lane keeping aid: An idea that a couple of other manufacturers are using as well, the idea is sound as a lot of people seem to drive when over-tired even though it has very similar effects on a person as being intoxicated. The worry is that rather than actually taking a break, tired drivers will think “it’s okay, the car will keep me in my lane”. Worse still, drunk drivers may think the same.

    Traffic Sign Recognition: As you point out, this is something the driver should be paying attention to themselves, but that goes for most of these driver aids Ford is touting. This actually seems slightly useful for those times when you can’t remember if the last sign you drove past on one of those “not quite a highway” roads was 80 or 100, but I’m not sure I’d trust the car’s cameras to spot every sign, especially ones I might have missed myself.

    MyKey: Quite a neat idea for parents with children who have recently acquired their licenses. Every other situation this feature might be used in will cause a catastrophic fight. Also worth noting that this feature is available on every Ford down to the Fiesta, and has been for about a year.

    I found it quite amusing that after all that, the thing you seemed to have liked most about the car was the ride/handling balance, which is a decidedly motoring journalist rather than tech journalist thing. Nobody says you have to stay in your box, of course 😉

    Sorry, this response has been open in a window for most of the day and I’ve been adding to it in little bits and pieces and now it’s really long 🙁

    • Reply Tech Girl January 28, 2015 at 18:21

      Quick one – the Kuga had SYNC not SYNC 2. Ford announced SYNC 3 at CES this year so I figure that will roll out into newer models. There are differences between each but as I mentioned – an entire post on its own to cover those upgrades as we go along.

      I never said I’d switch off Pre-collision assist in traffic. I said some might. It’s my job to look at something from both sides. You’re also bulking together Pre-collision assist with Active City Stop. I differentiated between both in the piece. I may have got the HOW it does this wrong and I apologise – I’m not a car journo. Just a tech blogger. I’d use Active City Stop. I sit in traffic for an hour a day. Sometimes I pass the time by singing loudly to Disney tunes. My focus on the road dips. I think a feature to help me, like Active City Stop, is not a bad thing.

      The Red LED lights I referred to were in front of the steering wheel (I think I mentioned this?) so no looking down needed.

      I’m currently not comfortable with Active Park Assist but then I drive an entry level Tiida. It doesn’t come with that feature and maybe, if I drove a car that did, I’d try it.

      I agree with you on the lane keeping aid and traffic sign recognition. People might get lazy, but any extra safety features, considering how many bad drivers are already on the road is it a bad thing to add a few extras?

      My goal, with this piece, was to highlight the tech in the car and give my views as well as what I think could be the downfalls. I think I covered those? Yeah, maybe they’re novelties but at the end of the day, cars are expensive spends. It’s a depreciating asset and you never get your money back. So would I feel easier splurging if I knew a few shiny buttons were thrown into the mix? Definitely. I also think the tech in this car is pretty cool.

      I’m not sure why you felt you needed to dissect the piece though because, for the most part, we’re saying the same thing. We agree the tech is cool, we agree it has its downfalls and could be considered “novelty”? I want to provide info to someone reading this and hopefully let them form their own opinions. It seems I did exactly that so I’m going to pat myself on the back and go drink some wine now 😛

      • Reply Graeme Norval January 29, 2015 at 16:19

        Sorry, I never meant the response to be a rebuttal to your article, because as you point out, we are largely saying the same thing. As I said I know I’m not the target audience here, but I think it is a good article and you absolutely deserve your glass of wine 🙂

        I just started writing a response because I wanted to write something about cars to try and get over the block I have about writing about my own car and with the window open and bits being added throughout the day it just got longer and longer. In retrospect I perhaps shouldn’t have posted it at all, but when you have a block of text you’ve just written it can be difficult to hit close instead of post…

        I realise I’m being a bit harsh on Ford and the Fusion, because this sort of tech-overkill on cars is very much a trend across the entire industry and it will only continue as each new model comes out. To my mind each step down this route is a step closer to the car becoming an appliance rather than something more emotional.

        You mentioned at the end of the article how you were just enjoying the smooth ride in the Fusion, which was odd because you usually hate driving, but there is a big difference between driving and commuting (for lack of better differentiating terms), and just about every commute in Joburg is awful. A Tiida in traffic and then a Ranger with a horse box behind it aren’t really the most conducive to driving enjoyment 😉

        So again, sorry if the response came off as an attack on you and your article, it wasn’t intended to be like that.

        • Reply Tech Girl January 29, 2015 at 16:27

          I owe you my apology. I think I misinterpreted the tone after a long day. I’ve had a bit of flack on Social media for going to this launch so assumed you were jumping on the same bandwagon – I was clearly wrong.

          I’m glad you posted!

          Valid point on driving versus commuting. To me, a car is always a grudge purchase. So any added flavour appeals. I know it isn’t the same for everyone though.

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