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Jamie Gibbs

How do parking systems work?


Learning how to park is a vital skill but today's cars are smart enough to help you.

Car using sensors to help the driver

Parallel parking, or even parking in general, takes time to master. Even experienced drivers can sometimes be daunted by the thought of squeezing into the tightest of spaces.

It’s a vital skill which can save you a lot of headaches, traffic tie-ups and angry looks if you do it right. Thankfully, today’s cars are smart.

Manufactures have transformed cars to a point where they can park themselves, completely autonomously.

But for now, this feature is only available to upmarket cars. Let’s look at the parking assist system, and how it can truly save you from nerve-racking accidents.

How does park assist work?

In order to work, park assist uses data from a car’s sensors and cameras.

Parking sensors were invented in the 1970s, but park assist technology, as we know it today, has been around since 1996. However, it took almost another decade to find its way to passenger cars.

Sensors are still in use today. Located around the car (usually on the front and rear bumper), they not only monitor other cars’ proximity, but also detect obstacles and can check the size of a parking space.

Car using sensors to park in a tight spot

Some cars only have a digital graphical representation on the dashboard. It warns the driver about the distance between their car and obstacles around it.

Usually there’s a beeping noise which becomes more rapid the closer your car gets to an object.

Sensors sensing distance

Modern cars can also make use of cameras. The video feed is streamed directly to the driver so they can make a better judgment of the space they want to park in. There are usually markings over the video to assist steering into a parking spot.

Some cars also feature a bird’s eye-view of the car, so the driver is aware of all surroundings and not only the rear. Particularly useful when manoeuvring at a busy car park.

Parking camera

This innovative technology has evolved to a point where certain cars can park themselves entirely autonomously, even if you aren’t actually present in the vehicle. Using the cameras and sensors, the car can find an open parking spot and ease into it effortlessly.

However, a more common use of park assist involves only controlling the brake and acceleration. All drivers have to do is press a button, and let go of the steering wheel.

The system can handle parallel parking and bay manoeuvers without a hitch. This is also known as “active park assist”.

Car parking in a tight space

Things to remember

As with any helpful technology, one can get easily used to it. Which in return can make you less cautious and overconfident. Park assist systems are simply an aid. And not all cars are able to detect smaller obstacles and people.

Sensors are far more reliable to avoid collision with walls and large objects. Rear-view cameras can also have blind spots, and a very limited view of the sides of the car.

However, if your car has a 360° surround camera, blind spots shouldn’t be an issue.


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