5 helpers for stress-free parking

5 helpers for stress-free parking

Parking is one of the disciplines that many drivers dread. Putting yourself and your car in the hands of smart assistants is the answer.

27. 10. 2021 Škoda World Innovation & technology

A recent survey in Australia found that 79 per cent of drivers said they suffer from some kind of stress or discomfort behind the wheel. What’s to blame? Longitudinal parking came first, with almost sixty per cent of respondents citing it as the most stressful factor. People worry about holding up others or scratching the surrounding cars.

That’s why systems have been developed to help drivers park. It starts with sensors and beeps and will soon end with the car parking itself while the driver is already walking away. Here’s an overview of these priceless helpers.

A simple but effective technology that most of today’s cars already have. These are ultrasound (or sometimes electromagnetic) sensors located in the rear and sometimes also in the front bumper. By transmitting and receiving waves, they can “see” an obstacle – as the car approaches it, the beeping inside the car speeds up; when the beeping becomes a continuous tone, it’s time to stop. By then, the obstacle is only about fifteen centimetres away. Park Distance Control technology originated in the 1970s as an aid for the blind; the first sensors in car bumpers appeared in 1982.

The first experiments with this technology took place in the 1950s, but the idea didn’t take off, and reversing cameras didn’t become more widespread until after 2000. A wide-angle camera is placed at the rear of the car, usually near the boot handle, and transmits the image to a display on the dashboard. It often also displays guide lines that show the ideal path into the parking space. 

To help you safely exit a perpendicular parking space, Rear Traffic Alert uses sensors located on the rear bumper. The lights on your on-board computer or an audible signal will then indicate whether another car is approaching from the side or if there are children or obstacles behind the car. Active braking also intervenes when needed.  Sometimes similar systems also work with panoramic cameras, giving drivers an overview of what’s happening around their car. 

This smart assistant was introduced in 2003 and has been evolving ever since. Automatic parking can use sensors and cameras to determine whether there is enough space between parked cars for your car as you drive past. The car could then back into the space in one manoeuvre, with the driver controlling the accelerator and brake and shifting gears. Today, this assistant can now reverse precisely in multiple manoeuvres, park in perpendicular spaces, first by reversing and later when driving forwards, and eventually automatically exiting from a parking space. Gradually, the space needed and the gap the system had to allow between the car and obstacles in front and behind were also reduced. The car can now also brake itself in front of a sudden obstacle.

The next evolution is Remote Parking, which parks your car completely by itself. It takes care of turning the steering wheel, applying the accelerator and brake, gear shifting and sometimes even engaging the handbrake. All you have to do is hold a button and the car takes care of everything. Some cars can already park like this without the driver sitting inside: the manoeuvre is controlled by a phone app. 

The future? Go park yourself

Today’s cars can park themselves, but they still need human contact and interaction, albeit minimal. The future, however, is completely driverless – you stop in a designated zone, for example in a parking garage, and with a tap on your phone screen you send the car off to find a free space and park itself. If it’s an electric car, it will first find a space with a charger and top up its batteries. Then it drives to a regular parking space to free up the charger. The owner will even be able to have the car autonomously re-park itself in the designated space. 

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