Self-Parking Cars

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B 170 NGT (W245) 2008

Parallel Parking Frustrations

We’ve all done it. Tried to negotiate a tight parking spot, only to give up in frustration and pull back out in a huff. Safe to say, parallel parking can be a real ordeal for many drivers, especially in busy towns and cities and is often the most dreaded part of the driver’s test. In fact, many drivers will go to great lengths to avoid having to make that dreaded parallel parking maneuver.

This is where technology can come to your rescue. You have found the perfect parking spot, but you are now stressed. Instead of the usual struggle of maneuvering your car backwards and forwards in that usual frustrated car dance, you press a button, sit back and relax.

Self-parking cars can often help ease traffic problems in dense urban areas and can also reduce accidents and bent bumpers. In many cases in busy towns and cities, the desired parking spaces are restricted many times by the driver’s skill at parallel parking.

Self-Parking Technologies are now preventing a lot of needless mishaps, fender benders and tears. The up-side as well, is that it can save you money and insurance worries, so your no-claims bonus is safe, at least on the parallel parking front.

Intelligent Parking Assist Systems (IPAS)

In 1992, Volkswagen first used self-parking technology in its Integrated Research Volkswagen Futura concept car which was fully autonomous. in which the driver could get out of the car and watch as it parked itself but it required a PC sized computer in the boot just to control the technology which was just not practical for production cars.

In 1999, Toyota developed and marketed its own Intelligent Parking Assist System (IPAS) also known as the Advanced Parking Guidance System (APGS). With the system, driver intervention is not required for parallel parking. Initially this automatic parking system was released in the Japanese Market on their Prius Hybrid and three years later marketed the system on it’s European cars.


How Self-parking Cars Work

Car manufacturers are increasingly marketing self-parking cars because of the obvious demand that is out there. Most people need at least six feet more space than the length of their vehicle to negotiate parking.  

The IPAS systems work by having an on-board computer which intelligently uses cameras built into the front and rear of the vehicle. Sensors then detect the proximity of nearby vehicles. The system then transfers the video feed to the dashboard display monitor.


Without getting too technical, the IPAS utilises sensors and computer processors to create a sonar warning system, allowing the systems to calculate optimum steering angles and to sound warnings when in parallel parking mode.

These sensors calculate the optimum parallel or reverse park steering angles which, in turn, interfaces with the Electric Power Steering systems of the vehicle to guide the car into the parking spot, while at the same time transferring all the required data to the navigation system and displays which shows all the obstacle avoidance details and information for the driver.


The system is not fully autonomous though, so the driver is ultimately responsible to monitor the on-screen displays which will show a grid with green or red lines, a flag symbol representing the corner of the parking spot, and adjustment arrows.

The IPAS is designed so that at any time that the steering wheel is touched or the brake firmly pressed, the automatic parking system disengages. The vehicle also cannot exceed a set speed and if it does, the system will deactivate. When the maneuver has been completed the car's computer voice issues the statement "The guidance is finished". The driver can then make any needed minor adjustments in the space if necessary.


Justin Kavanagh
Justin Kavanagh is a recognised leader in automotive intelligence and vehicle data supply to the entire motor industry. He has almost 20 years experience in building systems from the ground up. As the Managing Director of Vehicle Management System, he understands the need and importance of trustworthy and reliable vehicle history and advice to both the trade and the public.
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