Ford shows Kuga, triples driver-assist tech spending

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. President and CEO Mark Fields on Monday said the automaker would triple its engineering investment in driver assist technology, which could help speed the production of autonomous vehicles.

Fields, speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, declined to give specifics of what it currently spends or plans to spend on technology.

“As we look to the future, it is clear we are on the cusp of a revolution in mobility – from car sharing to autonomous driving to the customer experience,” Fields said. “Technology and innovation provide us with the opportunity to address these trends and to make people’s lives better by changing the way the world moves.”

He also unveiled a refreshed Kuga SUV for its European market and said the automaker will launch its FordPass app in Europe.

The new Kuga, known as the Escape stateside, will have a Sync 3 infotainment system and new front end, technologies and engine.

“New Kuga offers cutting-edge new features and technologies that will help drivers stay connected, comfortable, safe and stylish on the road,” Joe Bakaj, vice president of product development for Ford of Europe, said in a statement. “The sophisticated redesign has given Kuga a fresh and modern feel, while Sync 3 enables drivers to communicate with their vehicle and connected devices in seamless ways that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago.”

Ford launched the SUV in 2008, and it sold a record record 102,000 Kugas in 2015. The automaker expects to surpass 200,000 total SUV sales in Europe for the first time this year – a growth of more than 30 percent compared with 2015.

Ford last November premiered the U.S. version — the 2017 model-year Escape.

The new Kuga gets the Escape’s large upper trapezoidal grille and a smaller lower grille flanked by LED headlamps.

It will come with a number of safety features, including a perpendicular parking function that uses ultrasonic sensors to locate parking spaces alongside other cars as well as parallel to the road, and steers the vehicle into them while the driver controls the accelerator and brake.

There’s a cross-traffic alert warning, an active city collision avoidance system and a park-out assist that helps drivers exit a parallel space. It also includes the latest generation of Ford’s MyKey, which allows owners to program a key for younger drivers that can inhibit incoming phone calls, restrict top speed and disable the audio system in some instances.

The car comes with a 1.5-liter TDCi diesel engine (replacing a 2-liter TDCi) that will be 5 percent more fuel efficient at about 64 miles per gallon.

The Kuga also is available with a 2-liter TDCi diesel or a 1.5-liter EcoBoost gas engine.

The FordPass app, unvield in January at the North American International Auto Show, lets users do things like pay for downtown parking or share their vehicle through one platform.

(313) 222-2401