Anyone who’s ever struggled with parallel parking (does driver’s training come to mind?) may be inclined to opt for cars with available self-parking systems. But what does that mean, really? Do the cars literally park themselves? The answer is, not exactly, and it varies.
Originally available only in luxury cars, self-parking systems have filtered down into more mainstream vehicles such as the, Escape, Explorer, Focus and Flex, and and MKT which have Active Park Assist available. Those offered by other automakers sport various names, including activated parking guidance (Toyota and Lexus), parking assistant (BMW), and Parktronic (Mercedes-Benz).
In Ford and Lincoln models, Active Park Assist makes use of electronic sensors instead of imaging devices. Once activated, the vehicle, says Ford, parks itself with almost no driver input. Ford also claims its self-parking system is nearly three times faster than systems offered by other automakers. At the backbone of the system is electronic power-assisted steering.
Certain Toyota and Lexus models have available advance parking guidance as part of advanced technology packages. These are pretty pricey, however, costing in the area of $5,000 onV and nearly $4,000 or $9,000 on the Lexus LS460 and LS460L. In the Prius, the system includes dynamic radar cruise control, pre-collision system and lane-keep assist. In the Lexus models, the system is designed to parallel park or back into a parking space with little brake work on the part of the driver.
BMW’s parking assistant, available on the BMW 3-Series, “takes care of maneuvering the vehicle into parking spaces.”
Parktronic with parking guidance, available on certain Mercedes-Benz models, helps the driver evaluate parallel parking spaces on a drive-by. The system uses bumper sensors to determine if available spots can accommodate the car and then displays instructions to help the driver navigate the vehicle into the spot. Ultrasonic sensors in the front and rear bumpers detect objects and people within its field of view, providing audible signals and lit displays to help the driver negotiate tight parking spots.
If factoring in a minimum of $1,000 and possibly a lot more to get self-parking technology as part of a package isn’t economically feasible, most new cars feature various parking assist sensors that, along with a navigation system and rearview camera, coupled with audible warnings and illuminated lights, help make parallel parking a bit easier, if not altogether automated.
The other good news is that as more of these technologies (side blind-spot, collision avoidance, rearview cameras) are incorporated across-the-board in mainstream vehicles, the greater the likelihood that the prices will decrease for optional systems that provide self-parking.