Automatic parking systems are becoming more common, and some automakers are offering several 2010 models with the convenience feature.
Volkswagen AG, Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. are leaders in the commercial introduction of automatic parking systems, which allow vehicles to identify and steer themselves into parking spaces.
VW offers the system in six Volkswagen models and the Audi A3. Ford's 2010 Lincoln MKT crossover and MKS sedan have it as well. Both worked with Valeo SA to develop their own ultrasonic-based systems. The Valeo technology, called Park 4U, won a 2008 Automotive News PACE Award.
Toyota's Advanced Parking Guidance System will be an option on 2010 versions of the Lexus LS 460, LS 460 L and hybrid LS 600hL and the Toyota Prius hybrid.
The Toyota version, from Aisin Seiki Co., started in 2003 as a camera-aided visual system on the Japanese-market Prius. But Toyota and Aisin Seiki have added ultrasonic sensors from Denso Corp. to develop the system into a more sophisticated feature that also allows the vehicle to back itself into perpendicular parking spaces.
|What it does: Maneuvers vehicles into parallel parking spaces or backs them into perpendicular spaces|
|Some 2010 vehicles with it|
| Lexus LS 460, LS 460 L and LS 600hL|
| Lincoln MKS and MKT|
| Toyota Prius|
| Volkswagen Touareg|
|Some suppliers that make it|
| Aisin Seiki|
| Robert Bosch|
Driver handles the brakes
Current automatic parking systems do the steering but leave the driver in charge of the brakes.
"The driver controls vehicle speed via the brake pedal," says Toyota spokesman Curt McAllister. "Once the driver has correctly positioned the car and identified the desired parking space on the navigation screen, the system guides the car into the space."
BMW AG has experimented with an ultrasonic system.
Robert Bosch GmbH has an ultrasonic system offered in Europe on the Citroen C4 Picasso.
Not all research has paid off. In 2007, Siemens VDO said it was abandoning further work on its ParkMate automatic parking system.
Hardware is there already
Whether visual or ultrasonic, automatic parking systems appeal to automakers because they all use sensing and activation devices already installed on cars for other reasons. Essentially, the hardware is already inside antilock brake, traction control and object-proximity features.
The remaining chore is designing software to tie together available sensors, process the information and activate the vehicle's electric steering controls. If additional features are desired, they can be added to the software with modest spending on hardware.
For example, upgrading an automatic parking system to let the car move along a row of parked cars and signal when an empty spot is large enough for the vehicle requires one or two additional sensors mounted sideways, plus modifying software.
(Source: Automotive News)