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Business Management

Ford Edge Concept parks itself in tight spots, avoids obstacles when you can't

A car that can park itself even if you're not in it. A car that can swerve around an obstacle even if you don't notice it. Autonomous driving is getting closer all the time.

The Edge Concept SUV, unveiled by Ford late Tuesday ahead of the opening of the LA Auto Show, brings both of these advanced safety features to a mid-priced model aimed at urban professionals rather than rich people.

"We know they (members of the target audience) really want smart technology in their cars," said Christina Aquino, Product Manager for the Edge. "It has to be something that adds value and makes their life easier."

The Fully Assisted Parking Aid in the Edge Concept improves upon the Active Parking Assist that Ford debuted in 2009. Active Parking Assist requires that the driver control the brake and accelerator. Fully Assisted Parking Aid doesn't even need you to be in the car. It uses ultrasonic sensors to park itself perpendicularly even in tight spaces, and you can get out of the car and control it remotely while it squeezes in.

Obstacle Avoidance uses the same ultrasonic sensors--plus three radars and a camera--to scan the road 600 feet ahead. If it detects an object, it will warn the driver. If the driver doesn't react in time, the car will take evasive action on its own. Ford showed a video of an intrepid test engineer sitting in the driver's seat doing nothing, while his test car swerved around an obstacle on a test track.

Big plans for SUVs

Car tech is as much about media as it is about safety, of course. The concept car previewed earlier Tuesday showed the now-expected large display in the front center console, but it also demonstrated a rear-passenger setup where tablets embedded in the rear of the front headrests are controlled by a tablet in the rear-center armrest.

While this is a concept car, Ford has big plans for rolling out its SUV product line on a global scale, so it's highly likely you will see these features on a shipping model sometime in the near future. Whether you'll be ready to let the car take charge is up to you.

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