At the Ford Futures event in Belgium, the Blue Oval unveiled a pair of prototypes that could make cars of the not-too-distant future a fair bit more self-sufficient than they are today. First up is a system called the Fully Assisted Parking Aid. At first blush it seems a little more advanced than the self-parking systemson modern cars, which scan the road for suitably large openings and slot themselves in. Ford's new system takes that idea a step further by letting the driver step out and walk away before the car parks itself. This certainly has the potential to make door dings obsolete, but until you can send the car down the road on its own to hunt for parking spots, I'm not convinced there's much added value.
Ford is also developing an avoidance system that combines automatic steering with automatic braking. This would allow a car to apply the brakes before hitting an obstacle and, if unable to stop in time, steer itself out of the way. The system scans 200 meters ahead using a camera and ultrasonic sensors, and warns the driver with a chime if something looks amiss. If the driver doesn't react, the car will -- so long as it's traveling less than 38 mph.
Both systems are in the prototype stage, installed by Ford on vehicles for testing only. But, they give a strong indication of the sorts of (likely optional) features we can expect in just a few years.