How does self-parking work?

When the idea of self-parking was introduced 20 years ago through research prototypes, many people dismissed it. Most people, especially those who love driving, couldn’t come to terms with the idea of leaving control of their vehicles to an automated system, even if it’s just parking. It could be intelligent, safe or comfortable, but being in charge of the steering wheel is fulfilling.

However, today, self-parking systems have come of age and could be a major consideration in your next purchase of a car. In fact, various modern vehicles such as the 2016 Lincoln MKS, 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and 2016 Ford Focus have such installed. The companies are also using the technology as a selling point.

How does self-parking technology work?

The driving force behind research on self-parking technology was the fact that most urban centers have limited parking space. This requires vehicles to use parallel parking to maximize on the available spaces. Unfortunately, parallel parking is a grilling task for many drivers. It calls for time and practice to master. Even for expert drivers, one has high chances of sustaining dents and scratches on their car, causing a traffic snarl-up and committing silly parking offenses.

For effective parallel parking, you need to identify a viable space and “calculate” the best approach to getting your vehicle there effectively. Even if this space can comfortably accommodate your car, you need to consider the available room for you to maneuver. In a dense area, it can be challenging to find an empty parking slot and other cars might have left a tiny space around making it hard for you to maneuver and get your car to the available one.

Using electromagnetic and ultrasonic sensors installed in the rear and front bumpers, such auto-park cars will detect the necessary variables such as an empty parking slot, obstacles around, the distance between the car and such obstacles, among other parameters. Using this information, the computer system does the necessary calculations to determine a suitable cause of action.

Many of these systems are not completely autonomous. For this reason, you still have to do some tasks such as speed control, gear-changes and others. Once you arrive at your desired destination, you need to put your system on then slow-down to a recommended speed, at most 10 miles per hour. The system will search for available parking spaces and notify you. You then stop your car, select your desired slot and follow the system’s directions. The system will notify you once through so you can switch off your engine.

Though parallel parking is the common feature of automatic parking systems, we have some performing angle and perpendicular parking. The 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class auto-park system is among the innovative ones with both parallel and perpendicular parking abilities, automatic steering in and out of the parking lot, shifting and braking, among others.

Why self-parking?

The systems are intelligent and helpful especially when trying to park in busy areas. However, we must agree that not many drivers are certain or comfortable with using such features. Based on a 2015 survey by AAA, only 1 in 4 people in America would be comfortable letting these features park their vehicles. The irony is that AAA tried this technology on five different vehicle models in partnership with the Automotive Research Center at Automobile Club of Southern California and discovered that the systems outperformed human drivers in various parallel parking aspects.

The vehicles used in this research include a 2015 Jeep Cherokee Limited, 2015 Lincoln MKC, 2015 Cadillac CTS-V Sport, a 2015 Mercedes-Benz ML400 4Matic, and a 2015 BMW i3. Here is a summary of the findings comparing the automatic systems and human drivers assisted by a standard back-up camera:

• Self-parking systems registered 81 percent less curb strikes.

• During parallel parking, the systems completed the task with 47 percent fewer maneuvers with some making a single maneuver only.

• Self-parking systems were 10 percent faster in parking.

• Self-parking systems could park close to the curb by 37 percent.

Some limitations associated with Self-parking technology

1. From the AAA research outlined above, the small distance between the curb and your vehicle during parallel parking could be a setback. It leaves the car wheels and tires exposed to possible scratches and dents which could lead to costly repairs. The recommended space should be between 6 and 8 inches

2. The systems may fail in complex situations, for instance, when sensors cannot detect small obstacles or an available space. This makes it useful for the driver to keep alert so as to ensure the chosen cause of action by the system is sound.

Self-parking systems are brilliant and can make it easier to safely park in spaces one wouldn’t consider on their own. However, they have their own share of nuisances. They can fail during complex situations such as when small obstacles are involved. All in all, self-parking is a major step towards fully automated vehicles.

From guest blogger Arthur Hawthorne is an automobile enthusiast. He’s been writing about the automotive industry for over 10 years and is an expert in auto finance. Currently, he’s manages the blog at Best Auto Lenders where he’s covering different news, ideas, and reviews. 

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