(CBS News) Ford did a lot of testing to make sure the 2013 Escape would be ready for primetime. Among many new features, the SUV comes with an automatic liftgate that opens at the driver's command. But to make sure there are no kinks in the system, Ford ran an array of tests that range from everyday scenarios to the truly extreme.
"We tested the system in various settings, including at minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit in our climate chamber to freeze the bumper," Dominik Nical, a Ford engineer in Germany who oversaw testing, said in a press release. "We saw no unintended openings, and it still opened when the test subject needed it to."
Engineers ran many more mundane experiments as well. Can the Escape tell when someone actually wants the liftgate open compared to, say, a dog running under the SUV to fetch a stick? Turns out, it can - because they tested for that.
"The system is very robust," Nical noted. "It is designed to detect a kicking motion without deploying when other scenarios occur, making the customer confident in the technology."
The company tested the liftgate against run-away shopping carts, stray dogs, and bouncing basketballs. In fact, Ford engineers even employed individuals passing by on the street in Dearborn to help the calibration process by providing "sample kicks," Nical added.
According to Ford, The secret lies within how the software is calibrated, according to engineers who designed the system. 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.