The 2013 Ford Escape features a hands-free liftgate that can be opened by placing a foot under the back end of the vehicle. The technology uses capacitive sensors to recognize the presence of the driver’s foot and shin.
You might be right, Tool_maker. It might be a solution search of a problem and it might be a complete dud. But there are so many seemingly-unnecessary automotive features that have taken off that it's hard to completely rule out any feature. When power windows came out, many people laughed, saying they were perfectly capable of rolling the windows up and down without help. Same for power doorlocks and remote keyless entry ("you mean I need help putting my key in the door??"). Admittedly, I'm a terrible judge of these things (I never got power windows or remote keyless entry until they were thrust upon me), but ithis seems as viable as a lot of other silly features to me.
I guess you're probably right, Tool Maker. This probably came from one of those sessions where everyone is sitting around trying to come up with new features and someone says, "Hay, I got an idea. . ." There is one solution disucssed in an earlier article -- cameras at the back of the vehicle that can see if there is a kid behine a car:
If there was ever a solution in search of a problem, this is it. I have driven SUVs with tail gates since 1977 and can never remember this being a problem. However I can visualize hanging my head and upper torso in to get something and inadvertently actuating the mechanism.
There is also a scenario where you park, walk away to the front with your back to the vehicle and someone familiar with the feature activates the device while you and your key are still in triggering distance. Also notice that the shopping bags used in the demo have handles. Two bags in one hand would solve the issue. Not to mention someone balancing on one foot in the snow and ice in which our driver does not want to set his bags, while kicking a foot under the vehicle. Anyone want to place bets on how long before Ford is sued for Grandma's broken hip?
I think technology is really cool, but this appears to be just plain silly.
I don't think it can distinguish between a big and little leg, Greg. But the door won't open unless you've got the key fob in your pocket or close by. I suppose if Little Johnny is standing next to his Mom (who has the key), though, he could open the door.
From a human factors standpoint, I wonder if the sensors will or will not work when a young person or even a small child kicks their foot under the bumper. Can the sensor system distinguish size of leg and will there be any unintended effects if the system is inadvertently actuated (i.e. Johnny kicks his leg under the bumper and mom's head gets bumped by the liftgate closing down).
Jack: You raise a good question. I never asked about the effect of ice and snow, but I assume it's not as big an issue as it would be if this were optical. I'll see if we can contact Ford and get an answer to your question.
I wonder how that works after a few months of road grease...or a layer of ice or snow.
Also, I haven't seen the new Escape yet, but I hope they didn't get rid of the back back windwo that opens in addition to the whole tailgate. That previous design is great for hanging something (like a 2x4) out and having an angle on it to keep it inside.