Parking is one of the most challenging driving tasks for most drivers. It’s inevitable – you park your car every time you use it. Because of these two facts, most accidents causing minor damage to car exteriors happen while parking cars, whether it be parallel, in a lot, or in a garage. The prime difficulty is visibility and awareness of surroundings. There are so many aspects to pay attention to when parking, and it’s very difficult to avoid what you can’t see. Luckily, in the past ten years car manufacturers have developed a wide variety of systems that can assist in the parking process, available as standard equipment or installed as aftermarket upgrades.
The most basic system consists of small distance sensors that detect whether or not obstacles are in the vehicle’s path and how far away they are. In most production systems, these detectors are hidden and alert the driver of proximity to objects present by generating an increasingly audible audio feedback. For most cars this is a good solution that “fills in the gaps” that you can’t see sitting from the driver’s seat, especially low to the ground in front or behind the car. Most new “large” vehicles (SUVs, staion wagons, etc…) include these features as standard.
More advanced versions of this idea include video cameras positioned strategically around the car. In these cases, while you are backing up the car will display visual input from the cameras on an in-dash monitor. Most standard-equipment systems of this kind, like those found in newer Audis and BMWs will include programs that display “tracks” of where the car is going on the screen; all you have to do is line up the lines on the screen with the lines of the parking spot. Parking with these systems is almost like parking in a video game–you don’t actually need to look outside your car.
Recently, though, car manufacturers have taken these systems one step further, using these sensory inputs to actually control the car and do the parking for you. These intelligent systems are found in newer Toyota and Lexus models. They work well with very little input from the driver, and do a better job than most humans would.
If you have an older car that does not have one of these systems as standard equipment, you could easily have one installed. Simple sensor systems are relatively inexpensive these days, but don’t be a hero – have the system installed by a certified auto shop. A good system and proper installation will not cost all that much, but could save you plenty by reducing the risk of damage to your vehicle while parking.
by Espen Klem