First came key fobs, which let drivers unlock doors with one click. Then fobs automatically unlocked the door -- and started the car when drivers pushed a button on the instrument panel.
Now, Ford engineers have taken the hands-free campaign one step further. They have solved the nuisance of how to open a vehicle's rear gate when your hands are full of groceries.
The gate pops open when the driver, with key fob in a pocket, waves a foot under a sensor in the rear bumper.
Ford will tout the feature -- which it calls an industry first and plans to add to many vehicles worldwide -- on its seven-seat C-Max. The small minivan, which will be shown at the Detroit auto show in January, goes on sale in the United States late next year or early 2012.
A version of the minivan, which lacks the rear-gate opener, is already on sale in Europe. The C-Max shares a platform with the redesigned 2012 Ford Focus.