Vehicle rollaways have been a problem for some time. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rollaways killed some 360 people between 2012 and 2014, and this year, actor Anton Yelchin tragically passed away after being pinned by his unoccupied Jeep. To prevent this from happening in the future, Ford is debuting a new feature called Return to Park.
Featured on all 2017 model year Fusions as standard, Return to Park uses a rotary gear selector that automatically shifts the car into Park when it detects the driver’s intent to exit. The system features multiple safeguards and activates only when any of the following conditions occur: the vehicle is turned off, the driver door is opened while the vehicle is stationary and the safety belt is unlatched, or the safety belt is unlatched when the driver’s door is open and the vehicle is stationary. Ford says this adds invaluable peace of mind to the driving experience.
“When we decided to go with the new rotary shifter for the 2017 Ford Fusion, the team sat together in a room to see what additional customer benefit we could bring to the table,” said Ford product design engineer Mark Zyskowski. “We thought about what we could add without getting in the way of normal day-to-day scenarios, and all agreed a feature to help confirm park is selected when exiting the vehicle seemed really worthwhile.”
In addition to the capabilities described above, Return to Park can also detect if the driver has turned off the car while moving. If that occurs, the vehicle shifts into neutral until its slows to 5 mph. Then, it shifts into Park to avoid transmission damage. It’s a simple idea, but the system itself is quite sophisticated, able to detect when a belted driver opens the door to free a stuck coattail or get a closer look at lane markers in a parking lot.
Ford hasn’t divulged whether or not it will add Return to Park to other vehicles in its catalog, but if you ask us, it’s a no-brainer.