Self-parking cars help relieve driver stress

Posted May 25
Updated June 6

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Most drivers consider parallel parking to be a major annoyance and difficulty.

A recent study found that over half of drivers would pass open parking spaces just to avoid having to parallel park. And around a third of drivers admit to having taken parking spaces over a mile away simply to avoid having to perform the task.

Many states are finding it more trouble than it is worth to even test for parallel parking and are dropping it from the driving exams. North Carolina, in fact, is one of 15 states that have recently eliminated parallel parking as a consideration in obtaining a driving license.

But with more and more self-parking cars now hitting the market, drivers can expect some relief from this unpopular activity.

Self-Driving Cars Today

In 1992, Volkswagen showed a concept vehicle they called the Futura with the ability to self-park.

This vehicle did it in a completely different way than modern self-parking vehicles, though. The Futura turned its wheels sideways and then slid in between the two other cars, eliminating the need for multiple-point turns.

Modern iterations of the self-parking car went another direction, and instead use sensors on the bumpers to judge the proper steering angles from the dimensions of the space.

The automatic parking function requires one to remain an active part of the process in most cases. While the car handles the steering, the driver will still need to switch gears (or at least switch between drive and reverse in automatics), and apply the gas and brakes at the right moments.

A few 2016 models like the Ford Focus, Toyota Prius and BMW i3 offer some form of steering assistance during parallel parking. The new 2017 Volkswagen Alltrack, Buick Lacrosse and Lincoln MKZ are just a few examples of current year models that can assist the driver with either parallel or perpendicular parking maneuvers with various levels of input from the driver.

Leith : Spotlight : Parking Assist Tech

One car that goes a step further is the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300 when it is equipped with optional "Parking Pilot" technology. With the Parking Pilot technology, the E Class completely steers the vehicle into the space once the driver chooses where they want to park.

Bob McGuire at Mercedes-Benz of Cary likes how this 21st century technology makes life easier and stress free for the driver like when trying to parallel park downtown.

"With the mere push of a button, the 2017 E300 with Parking Pilot uses a series of sensors to get you into that parking space perfectly every time," McGuire said. "Steering and braking are done for the driver in such a low-speed maneuver. Parking Pilot will even drive you out of that tight parking space when you're ready to leave."

Whereas earlier models required a driver to operate the gearshift, gas and brake, the vehicle itself now handles all of this. Parking Pilot can also maneuver itself into a perpendicular parking space, backing in until there is equal distance between itself and the cars parked on either side.

Moving Forward

Mercedes is even introducing a phone app that allows the driver to park and un-park vehicles from outside the car. Nissan and other companies are also producing apps with similar functioning.

Concept cars that are not yet on the market show how the next few years of self-parking cars may progress.

Leith : Spotlight : BMW i3 Concept

A BMW i3 concept car is sophisticated enough to be sent out to look for a place to park itself in a parking lot. At a busy mall, drivers could pull up to the front, drop themselves off, and then send the car off to find a space wherever it can. Then, after they are done shopping, they can summon their car back again with the smartphone app.

Self-parking cars are part of a larger semi-autonomous car trend. Allowing a limited function to be computerized is the first step in a process of human drivers turning over more and more of the driving task to technology.

Both Google and Apple have recently created automotive divisions to make contributions to this developing field marrying automobiles and technology.

"We appreciate what Google is doing since they're promoting the idea of the autonomous car and preparing the ground for us," Werner Huber, head of the research group for driver assistance at BMW, told Forbes. "But we are coming at it from another side. As a car manufacturer, we are very experienced in building cars and we have to adopt more processes of an IT company."

Finding a parking space and safely maneuvering into and out of one, despite being a common annoyance, may not need to be part of modern life for much longer.

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  • Larry Wiandt Jun 7, 1:05 p.m.
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    I agree also,.

  • Teddy Fowler Jun 7, 12:22 p.m.
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    Yeah... it's that difficult to park...

  • Rick Howell Jun 7, 7:41 a.m.
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    Completely agree William

  • William Price Jun 7, 6:20 a.m.
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    if a driver has stress because they might have to park somewhere....maybe they arent even competent to even drive at all....