Our visit at Ford spanned two days, and on the second day the firm took us on a tour of the firm's Research and Innovation Centre, and better still, its test track.
Located at Ford's Dearborn Development Centre, the recently renovated $43m test track enables thorough road testing of vehicles' performance and durability.
Upon arrival, we were free to jump in any car we pleased and instead of just fiddling around with the technology integrated into the vehicles' dashboards we were able to fire up the engines and take some of the firm's latest models out for a spin.
The lineup featured vehicles like Ford's popular F-250 pickup truck, which not only looked like a beast but felt like one to drive too, especially when clambering up to get in the cab.
Also on the track ready for us to hop in was the Focus Electric, and to name a few others, the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, the Fusion hybrid, the Explorer SUV, and the F-150 SVT Raptor with a 6.2 litre V8 engine.
Each vehicle was fitted with Ford's Sync in-car voice recognition software and most were also fitted with other technologies such Active Park Assist. This helps drivers parallel park with the touch of a button and without using the steering wheel via ultrasonic based sensing system and electric power-assisted steering to guide the vehicle into a parking spot. Ford said that this also improves fuel economy while reducing CO2 emissions and enhancing performance compared with traditional steering.
The Ford Fusion Hybrid car is worth a mention, not only because of its in-car "efficiency leaves" that tell you how environmentally friendly your style of driving is in real time, but also for its lithium-ion battery pack that provides enough power to operate in all-electric mode for commutes up to 21 miles. When the battery charge is depleted or more power is required, the vehicle runs as a traditional gas-electric hybrid.
Our tour was finished off with a visit to the Research and Innovation Centre, where hidden deep inside was Virttex, a virtual driving simulator used by Ford to study driver concentration during long journeys. This helps develop technologies to alert and warn drivers when they start showing signs of fatigue.
The Virttex driving simulator features a suspended dome that hosts a stationary vehicle surrounded by a 360 degree virtual environment that operates while it moves and tilts on pistons, giving test drivers the sensation of driving.
After lunch in a 1850s style dining hall to celebrate the 150th year of Ford, off we went to the NAIAS auto show, where we able to view the world's biggest carmakers showcasing their latest designs.
Be sure to check out our NAIAS 2013 summary for a more detailed roundup of our visit to the exhibition. µ
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