Parallel parking is a challenge for many motorists, however due to limited parking space in major cities, parallel parking is an essential skill. It is rarely a simple task, and it can result in traffic jams, frayed nerves, and dented fenders. Fortunately, technology offers a solution: self-parking vehicles. Imagine locating the ideal parking location, but instead of struggling to push your vehicle back and forth, you simply click a button, sit back, and enjoy the ride. The same technology employed in self-parking vehicles can also be applied to collision avoidance systems and, eventually, self-driving vehicles.
Automakers have begun marketing self-parking vehicles in response to consumer demand. Parallel parking is frequently the most dreaded aspect of the driver’s test, and nearly everyone must execute it at some point. Those who reside in large cities may be required to do this daily. The elimination of the difficulty, tension, and uncertainty associated with this task is enticing.
Moreover, self-parking automobiles can assist alleviate parking and traffic issues in busy urban areas. Sometimes the ability of a driver to parallel park restricts his or her ability to park a vehicle in a spot. A self-parking vehicle is capable of parking in tighter spots than the majority of drivers. This makes it easier to locate parking places and allows the same number of vehicles to use fewer spaces. When someone parallel parks, they frequently impede traffic for several seconds. If they have difficulty entering the parking space, the delay can linger for several minutes and significantly disrupt traffic.
In conclusion, the difficulties of parallel parking causes several little dents and scrapes. Self-parking technology might avert a significant number of these incidents. It can also save you money because you won’t need to file insurance claims for parking-related damage.
Self-parking technology is predominantly utilized for parallel parking (although BMW has a prototype that parks itself in horizontal spaces, like small garages). Parallel parking mandates that vehicles park parallel to a curb and in line with other parked vehicles. Some professional drivers can parallel park with less room than the length of their vehicle, however this is not the case for the majority of drivers.
To parallel park, the driver needs take the following five steps:
- He pulls forward and stops alongside the automobile in front of him.
- He backs into the space at a 45-degree angle, with the wheels of the vehicle facing the curb.
- When his front wheels are parallel to the rear wheels of the vehicle in front of him, he straightens them and continues to reverse.
- While checking his rearview mirror to ensure he won’t be too near to the vehicle behind him, the driver turns his wheels away from the curb to maneuver the front of his vehicle into the area.
- The driver then pushes forward and backward in the space until his vehicle is approximately one foot from the curb.
Currently available self-parking vehicles are not fully autonomous, but they make parallel parking significantly easier. The driver still controls the vehicle’s speed by depressing and releasing the brake pedal (the vehicle’s idle speed is sufficient to propel it into the parking place without using the gas pedal). After the operation begins, the steering wheel is taken over by the onboard computer system.
A signal informs the driver when to halt as the car advances ahead to a position alongside the leading vehicle. The driver then places the vehicle into reverse and barely releases the brake to begin going backward. Utilizing the power steering technology, the computer properly steers the vehicle into the parking place by turning the steering wheel. After the automobile has sufficiently backed into the space, a second signal alerts the driver to halt and shift into drive. As the car’s wheels adapt to maneuver it into the gap, it moves forward. After parking is complete, a final signal (on the British Toyota Prius, it is a female voice saying “The assist is complete.”) alerts the driver.
A big computer screen located on the dashboard of the British Toyota Prius provides the driver with information such as when to stop, when to shift into reverse, and when to slowly release the brake to pull the vehicle into the parking slot.
Many self-parking systems have distinct methods for detecting nearby obstacles. Certain vehicles are equipped with sensors located on the front and back bumpers that serve as both transmitters and receivers. These sensors transmit signals that bounce off nearby objects and reflect back to the sensors. The car’s computer then calculates the location of the items based on the amount of time it takes for these signals to return. Some systems utilize bumper-mounted cameras or radar to identify obstacles. The outcome is identical: the automobile recognizes other parked vehicles, the size of the parking space, and the distance from the curb, and then directs itself into the space.
Next, we’ll examine the models now available and what the future holds.
Future Self-parking Cars
Volkswagen implemented self-parking technology in its IRVW Futura (Integrated Research Volkswagen) concept car in 1992. The IRVW was fully autonomous when parking; the driver could exit the vehicle and observe as it parked itself. A computer the size of a personal computer housed in the trunk operated the system. VW calculated that this feature would have added approximately $3,000 to the cost of a vehicle, and it was never offered on a production model [ref].
Toyota began introducing Intelligent Parking Assist, a self-parking option for their Japanese Prius hybrid in 2003. Three years later, British drivers could add self-parking for the equivalent of $700 to their Prius. So far, 70% of British Prius owners have selected this option [ref]. Toyota plans to deploy the self-parking Prius to the United States in the near future, although a specific timetable has not yet been determined.
Although Toyota is the only business having a self-parking car currently on the market, others are developing self-parking technologies. In 2004, a group of Linkoping University students in Sweden partnered with Volvo on the Evolve project. The Evolve automobile is capable of parallel parking on its own. Students installed sensors and a computer in the trunk of a Volvo S60, which controls the steering wheel and gas and brake pedals. Here is a video showing this automobile in action. Seimens VDO is developing a standalone driver assistance system dubbed Park Mate that would assist drivers in locating and parking in a spot.
Self-parking automobiles are distinguishable from autonomous automobiles. It seems like a futurist’s fantasy: millions of fuel-efficient automobiles traveling under computer control, avoiding crashes and maintaining safe speeds while the “drivers” watch television or take a sleep. How far away are we from an autotopia akin to The Jetsons? Probably rather distant.
Even though it would be safer, it may be difficult for many individuals to hand over control of their automobiles to a computer. Product liability rules must also be taken into consideration. Yet, the technology is not far off. General Motors aims to sell German drivers a self-driving 2008 Opel Vectra. A system of cameras, lasers, and computers will track lanes, road signs, bends, barriers, and other vehicles at a speed of 60 mph. [ref].
Several automobiles already feature adaptive cruise control, a semi-automated cruise control system. This technology allows the driver to choose a desired speed, similar to conventional cruise control. Nevertheless, this system employs lasers to detect the distance between the vehicle in front of it and any other vehicles on the road and automatically slows the vehicle if it gets too close.
Another potential innovation would utilize wireless technologies to connect vehicles. If one vehicle spotted slick conditions on a bend, subsequent vehicles would receive the information and reduce their speed. In addition, traction control systems would activate. In addition, this technology may detect traffic conditions by monitoring the speeds of other automobiles and subsequently recommend different routes.
Despite the fact that self-parking cars may appear to be a frivolous luxury at the moment, they represent the next step in the evolution of automotive technology.
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