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Ford’s Self-Parking Car and Samsung’s Self-Photographing Camera

I expect machine takeover any moment. This week I got two tastes of new technologies that reminded me about problems that machines can solve better than me: Ford’s Active Park Assist and Samsung’s new Dual View Camera.

Have you ever parked a car that parks itself? That’s what I did with the Ford Motor Company’s new 2010 Lincoln. Ford calls the technology Active Park Assist. Unlike Lexus and Toyota’s self-parking systems, which experts say are more complex and expensive, Ford decided to let you control the brake and gas. They handle the steering, making this a more affordable (not to mention controllable) venture.

So imagine this: You’re tooling down the NYC streets (world’s toughest parking challenge). You hit the Active Park Assist button. Ultrasonic technology begins to check both sides of the street for a spot that’s large enough for the car. A voice or visual activation system tells you “Parking Space Found.” Next, you’re asked to remove your hands from the steering wheel and start using the gas and brake to inch back into the spot.

When the steering wheel started turning itself—yup, like a ghost in the machine—I naturally craned my neck to see if we were going to make it. No need. The car told me when to go backward and forward, and showed me how we were doing on my console video screen. When my car starts letting me know that I’m pulling in to a Monday or Friday parking spot, I abdicate to the machine. To watch my movie: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=121010701652&ref=nf. For a turn-by-turn analysis from someone who knows how to drive, visit Kicking the Tires.

Next up: Samsung’s new self-photographing cameras.