Tech’splaining: What is Ford Co-Pilot 360?

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

can be reached at christianwardlaw@gmail.com
  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

can be reached at christianwardlaw@gmail.com
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Ford Co-Pilot 360 is the automaker’s name for its package of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). It debuted in the 2019 Ford Edge, a 5-passenger midsize crossover SUV, and in coming years the company plans to roll it out to all of its cars, SUVs, and the F-150 and Ranger pickup trucks.

Created to help drivers avoid collisions, Ford Co-Pilot 360 is standard on the Edge, as well as the Fusion midsize sedan and Ranger midsize truck. On the F-150, the full set of safety systems is available only on certain trim levels, and only by combining option packages together.

What’s included in Ford Co-Pilot 360? The following features are the six core technologies:

  • Reversing camera
  • Automatic high-beam headlights
  • Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection
  • Blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert
  • Lane keeping assist – Provides both a warning and steering input
  • Driver monitoring system – Monitors for a drowsy or inattentive driver

Additionally, depending on the model, Ford offers a Ford Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ upgrade. On the 2019 Ford Edge, this option package includes:

  • Voice-activated navigation
  • Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability
  • Lane centering assist – Actively centers the vehicle in the lane of travel
  • Evasive steering assist – Helps to avoid obstacles when the driver swerves

But wait, there’s more! The 2019 Edge also includes a standard post-collision braking system, which slows the SUV following an initial collision in order to eliminate or reduce the potential for a secondary collision. An enhanced parking assist system is also available, autonomously steering the Edge into or out of a parallel or perpendicular parking spot while the driver operates the transmission, accelerator, and brake pedal.

Ford Co-Pilot 360 Review

Ford Co-Pilot 360 Technology
Ford plans to roll out its core Co-Pilot 360 driver assistance and collision avoidance systems to most of its lineup. The 2019 Edge was the first to get the collection of ADAS technologies. (Ford)

To assess Ford’s new slate of ADAS, I test-drove a 2019 Ford Edge Titanium equipped with the optional Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ package and the enhanced parking assist system.

Starting with the core Co-Pilot 360 systems, the blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert technology is the most useful in daily driving, illuminating a warning on the side mirrors if a vehicle is in the blind spot. This is appropriate because you should be looking at the mirrors before making a lane change. If you signal a lane change when another vehicle is in the blind spot it flashes the warning light to suggest that such a move is a bad idea.

I did not test the automatic emergency braking system or pedestrian detection technology. Nor did I receive a driver attention alert. I did, however, activate the lane departure warning and lane keeping assist system by pressing the button on the end of the turn signal stalk.

When you drift over lane markings, the system provides a vibration through the steering wheel. At the same time, the lane keeping assist nudges the SUV back toward the center of the lane unless you add some muscle to overrule it. Both behaviors are subtle, which means you’re more likely to keep them engaged at all times. You can also just use one or the other independently.

Of the core Ford Co-Pilot 360 functions, the reversing camera needs improvement. It is slow to load, failing to show on the 8-inch Sync 3 infotainment screen until I was nearly out of my driveway.

Ford Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ Review

Ford Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ Technology
Add Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ to your 2019 Edge, and you get adaptive cruise control, lane centering assist, evasive steering assist, and voice-activated navigation. (Ford)

Adaptive cruise control forms the foundation of Co-Pilot 360 Assist+, and through the driver information system in the instrumentation display, you can choose to use adaptive or normal cruise control. While this is a thoughtful touch (some car companies offer adaptive-only), switching between the two is not as easy as in some recent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles vehicles, such as the Jeep Gladiator and Ram 1500.

In any case, Ford’s adaptive cruise and lane centering assist technologies need some refinement.

In my experience, except when traffic is light, the adaptive cruise control spends plenty of time braking and surging as it accounts for other vehicles and people changing lanes. It does a decent job of “seeing” vehicles that are merging into the space in front of the Edge, and doesn’t react suddenly to those changes in traffic flow, but still isn’t as calm, cool, and collected as some adaptive cruise systems.

In heavy traffic, the stop-and-go technology works well. It brought the Edge to a smooth halt, and a push of the Resume button on the steering wheel accelerated the SUV once traffic ahead started moving again. No doubt, for people who spend lots of time navigating bumper-to-bumper commutes, this will come in handy.

The lane centering assist is not ready for prime time. During my drive, I felt like the cameras governing this technology were not looking far enough down the road, which allowed the Edge to wander as it sought lane-center. The photo above appears to illustrate this lack of camera sight distance.

Beyond that, I had to frequently override the system when it erred in judgment. For example, in a construction zone, it misread black lines on the asphalt where old lane markings were removed. The Edge nearly steered itself into a traffic cone.

In another situation on the freeway, I was slowly passing a semi-truck while rounding a bend. The Edge was insistent upon hugging the lane markings next to the truck, and I had to muscle the SUV back into the middle of the lane.

On a positive note, the voice-activated navigation system works well. It’s not entirely natural in terms of its voice recognition technology but doesn’t take long to learn and use for finding your favorite coffee shop or burrito joint in unfamiliar territory, a specific brand of gas at a nearby station, or a specific address. Furthermore, you can use voice control to change the radio station and to adjust the temperature.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find the voice-activation button on the steering wheel, requiring a glance down. And to some degree, that defeats the purpose.

Enhanced Parking Assist System Review

Ford Enhanced Parking Assist System
Enhanced parking assist steers the Edge into a parallel or perpendicular parking space while the driver uses the transmission, brake, and accelerator. (Ford)

When I took driver’s education in high school, my instructor remarked upon my ability to execute this sometimes-difficult task. In fact, he pitted me against another student in a contest that netted the winner…nothing. But it was fun anyway, no doubt honing my driving skills as the barrels on the course got tighter and tighter together.

During my time with the Edge, I went to pick up my kids at their school. Parallel parking at the curb, and cognizant of the sizable 20-inch aluminum wheels, I found it hard to place this SUV and wound up both crooked and at least 18 inches away from the edge of the street. So much for talent.

Later while testing the Edge’s enhanced parking assist system, I tried three different scenarios. The first time, I simply did not trust the technology and bailed. I thought for sure I was going to scrape someone’s Toyota Corolla.

Next, I used my neighbor’s Honda Fit as my bogey, and the Edge tucked in neatly behind it.

After that, on a gentle curve in my neighborhood, I tried parking behind another vehicle, but the Edge wound up as far away from the curb and as crooked as the SUV was when I manually parked it at the school.

Long story short, here are my findings:

  1. You can’t use this system on a busy street. You need to pull up about half a car length ahead of the parallel space the system has identified, and if people pile up behind you, you won’t be able to get into the space.
  2. If you don’t trust the technology, you’re going to abort the mission.
  3. Success, based on my experience, is hit-or-miss.

What is Evasive Steering Assist?

Ford Evasive Steering Assist
Evasive steering assist is designed to help a driver avoid an obstacle, but because these maneuvers happen so fast, you probably won’t know if it worked or not. (Ford)

Evasive steering assist is designed to help a driver avoid a collision when an obstacle suddenly appears in the vehicle’s path. It uses the camera and radar sensors at the front of the Edge, determines if there is a risk of a collision, and if one is likely it emits a visual and audible warning.

If the distance between the Edge and the obstacle is too short to avoid the impact, the system automatically triggers the brakes to reduce speed as much as possible before impact.

Otherwise, it prepares the evasive steering assist, which engages the moment the driver moves the steering wheel to avoid the obstacle. Based on how far away the obstacle is, and it’s size, the technology calculates the safe path around it and helps the driver to take that path.

Thankfully, no situation presented itself that required me to test this technology.

The Verdict

Stone Gray 2019 Ford Edge Titanium
With the 2019 Edge, Ford commits to making its vehicles safer by including Co-Pilot 360 technology on most of its models. Better yet, the basic package includes the tech you need, and nothing you don’t. (Christian Wardlaw)

I applaud Ford for striving to make blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and automatic high-beam headlights standard equipment on its vehicles. These are, in my opinion, the most important ADAS technologies you can get for daily driving, and finding them all in one package on a standard equipment list remains a rarity.

As far as the Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ option package is concerned, I’m skeptical. The price is right, but Ford popped the technology out of the oven too early. Each ingredient here (except for the untested evasive steering assist) needs additional seasoning.

Furthermore, in spite of my lousy parking job at my kids’ school, I’m not a fan of semi-autonomous parking assist systems. Partly, this is because I don’t trust them. But I also think they unnecessarily complicate matters.

There is one last thing to mention with regard to the 2019 Ford Edge’s safety, and that’s the improved crash-test rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Clearly, as part of the updates Ford gave this SUV for 2019, it made some structural changes that result in top crash protection across the board.

Only lousy headlights prevent it from earning a “Top Safety Pick” rating.


About the Author

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

can be reached at christianwardlaw@gmail.com
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