Ford takes its engineering testing to the extremes, but also keeps it real. So, when it came time to ensure one of the coolest new technologies on the 2013 Escape would function exactly how you would want, things got a little interesting.
You see, the new hands-free liftgate was pitted against various scenarios to make sure it wouldn’t open unprompted, rather only when you wanted it to. The sensor-based system needs only a gentle kicking motion under the center of the rear bumper to unlock and raise the liftgate when you have the Escape key fob in your hand, pocket or bag. You don’t have to set down packages or dig around for your keys when your hands are full. Voila, quick and easy access to the cargo area. The same motion closes the hatch.
The sensors, located between the tailpipes, detect both the shin and kicking motion of the key holder. The combination of that motion and the signals sent between the vehicle and the key fob activates the system. The system safeguards against accidental openings by being programmed to open with leg motion and the breaking of a miniature electric field.
To ensure it would not accidentally open, the system was tested at minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit in a climate chamber to freeze the bumper – not only did it not open unintentionally, it still opened when the test subject needed it to. High heat and monsoon-like rain were also levels of testing. Same results.
Then the liftgate system was pitted against what we all run into every day: an out-of-control shopping cart hitting the rear of the Escape, a bouncing basketball going under the liftgate, someone polishing the rear bumper and, yes, that dog – it was sent running underneath the bumper to fetch a stick, and since the system did not detect a kicking motion, it did not open in any of these situations. Random people passing along the street were also utilized to help the calibration process by giving “sample kicks.” You can watch video of the testing here.
Within the Ford lineup, this feature is available only on the new Escape, but it could lend a hand – or is that a foot? – in helping Ford improve other touch and gesture technology it’s testing.