We’ve all struggled with parking our vehicles at more than one point in our driving lives. New drivers usually struggle the most, and we’ve all been there; trying to figure out if the car is straight, if the car is in the center of the slot, and is parked as neatly as possible. It’s usually down to driving experience and a lot of time behind the wheel, and extra kudos if you have been driving different types of vehicles and different sizes of vehicles, as this all helps sharpen you parking skills.
Of course, not every parking job is easy, and technology integrated in vehicles nowadays have made parking from easier to almost completely error free and automated. Called park assistance systems, this is a general term used by car manufacturers and marketing teams for a wide variety of useful features that a vehicle possesses that make parking easier for the driver. Let’s talk about how these assistance systems work, and highlight the main advantages of each.
At its most basic form, the standard form of park assistance is the presence of parking sensors in located at the front and rear of the vehicle. These sensors are activated once the vehicle is detected to be crawling forward or reversing, giving drivers an audible warning that beeps faster or louder (also a combination of both) as the vehicle gets closer to a detected object. In essence, this is just to give drivers an extra hand if judging space is a challenge, and this basic system can usually be supplemented by a rearward facing camera.
This consists of a camera positioned at the rear of the vehicle that transmits the video feed to the vehicle’s infotainment screen. The camera is usually at a wide and low enough angle to give enough depth and visibility, with the driver able to easily judge the distance to an object or stop marker/tire stopper. A combination of audible and visible assistance systems like this is the most common form of parking guidance that is available on the market, and can be found in vehicles like the Mitsubishi Xpander and the Mazda 3.
Taking it a step further, automobile manufacturers would add guidance lines when reversing into parking slots. These lines usually denote the proximity to the rear bumper, with colored lines denoting how close you’re getting; yellow is close, red is mere inches.These guidance lines could also be supplemented by a set of dynamic guidance lines that adjust to how far left or right your steering wheel is turned, and give you an approximate angle and position of the vehicle once you start reversing. This is usually found on more premium or larger vehicles that either justify the cost or are a necessity when maneuvering a vehicle of such size, such as the Toyota Land Cruiser or BMW X1.
The most advanced systems on the market, however, require the least amount of driver input. Using various sensors and transmitting the data to the electronic steering input, some vehicles have a semi-automated parking feature, requiring the driver to merely select a parking slot by indicating with a blinker, and the car will talk you through changing from drive to reverse. Actual steering is controlled by the vehicle as it detects the parking slot and adjacent objects or vehicles in real time. All you have to do is switch gears when instructed and control the reversing with your gas and brake pedals. Angles and guesswork is taken out of the equation, and it results in a perfect parking result almost every single time. The pinnacle of parking systems on the market is capable of parking your vehicle without you having to be in it, relying on a myriad of sensors and cameras to transmit data for the vehicle to reverse or pull out of parking slots at will. Vehicles like the Ford Everest and Jaguar E-Pace feature self-parking systems, with optional fully-automated parking on some trims, and Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility suite is working towards full autonomy.
As with any assistance system in a vehicle, you can choose to use these features or do the parking yourself. Always remember that when using any of these systems, you must still be aware of your surroundings, mirrors, and be prepared to take over when necessary. It’s cool to see that vehicle technology is taking the hassle and guesswork out of parking, but remember that parking on your own is a necessary skill, and something that must be practiced in order to get it right. Not every vehicle can make it easy for you, but the best way is usually to learn the hard way.