1 in 5 car accidents happens in a parking lot. What if we could remove human error from the equation? Think of the last time you scratched your car. For many, it happened during parking. Parking assistance systems aim to avoid parking crashes and make parking easier for drivers.
Parking assistance, also known as park assist, is an automotive technology aiming to make parking safer. Each model year brings more park assist-capable vehicles to the streets. If you haven’t come across this technology yet, you soon will.
This post will explain parking assistance, show three examples of vehicles with this feature, and provide a few best practices for working with these systems.
What is parking assistance?
Parking assistance is an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) that helps drivers park more safely. Its systems use sensors and cameras to calculate the best way to navigate your car into a parking spot. Then, they use the car’s steering and braking systems to guide (and move) it into place. Some vehicles even offer remote parking assistance — the ability to do it without the driver at the wheel.
Parking assistance technology has the potential to reduce crashes that happen while parking. Parking lot blunders, parking garage problems, and parallel parking miscalculations can all be avoided with these assistance technologies.
How does parking assistance work?
Parking assistance systems use sonar sensors, cameras, or both, to monitor the car’s surroundings when a vehicle is about to park and in the process of parking. There are two main types of this parking safety technology — passive and active.
Passive Parking Assistance
Passive systems provide audible and tactile warnings to drivers during their normal parking process. The driver commands the car, as usual, heeding (or not heeding) the warnings, but staying in control of the car’s steering and braking. Many systems use a series of beeps that speed up as you get closer to an obstruction.
Active Parking Assistance
Active systems are different. Active parking assistance takes control over the vehicle’s steering, acceleration, brakes, and even gear positions. Parallel parking, perpendicular parking, and reverse-in parking are available, depending on the model.
Remote Parking Assistance
Remote parking assistance is an active park assist feature that takes its capabilities a step further. When a smart key is nearby, cars with this feature can park (and unpark) themselves via the active parking assistance system. Drivers must be nearby to supervise, but don’t have to be in the vehicle for it to work. It’s meant to help fit into small spaces where the driver’s door wouldn’t be able to open adequately.
Related Parking ADAS Systems
Along with Active and Remote Parking Assistance, the PAVE Campaign to standardize ADAS nomenclature considers the following in its Parking Assistance category:
- Backup Camera — When the vehicle is in reverse, it displays the area behind the car on the interior console screen. Backup cameras are often bundled together with collision alerts, which let drivers know when an obstruction is nearing.
- Surround-View Camera — Displays the car’s immediate surroundings, on some or all sides.
- Trailer Assistance — Provides visual guidance while backing up to a trailer or provides parking guidance when a vehicle is towing a trailer. Depending on the model, this can also include active steering/parking help when in reverse.
3 Examples of Parking Assistance Packages
Today, there are many vehicles available with parking assistance features. Carmakers either have this technology available now or are developing their own. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers use the same names to describe and refer to their features. To get better at recognizing parking assistance when it pops up in your shop or in commercials, here are three examples of automakers describing their related packages.
Toyota Intelligent Parking Assist
Toyota was the first vehicle manufacturer to offer park assist. Its U.S. debut was on the 2006 Lexus LS. It’s now offered on non-luxury vehicles as well. One example is Toyota’s 2021 Prius Prime. This car offers safety features galore, including a parking assist feature, as described in a 2020 product update:
“The Prius Prime Limited’s standard Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS) with Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA) uses ultrasonic wave sensors to size up a parallel parking space and then, when activated by the driver, can steer the car into it. The system can also reverse the vehicle into a perpendicular space and automatically steer it out of a parallel space. If you drive into a tight spot, such as a narrow alley or driveway, Intelligent Clearance Sonar provides visible and audible warnings when the car gets too close to obstacles on the sides.”
Chevrolet Automatic Parking Assist with Braking
Chevy offers its own brand of parking assistance technology. Here’s how the automaker describes it:
“Your vehicle’s Automatic Parking Assist with Braking system uses ultrasonic sensors along the front, rear and sides of your vehicle to detect a parking spot. The system is designed to help you park alongside a detected vehicle or vehicles. The system will then automatically move your vehicle into the spot. It does this by using automatic steering and braking, while you use FORWARD and REVERSE gears and remove your hands from the steering wheel. The system can detect parking spots while moving at low speeds.
You must remain in the vehicle when the feature is active and always be prepared to take over steering or change gears as needed.”
Kia Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA)
Kia offers a remote parking experience. Here’s how Kia describes its parking assist program:
“Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA) is a parking convenience system that reduces driver burden when parking the vehicle or exiting from a parking spot by parking or maneuvering the vehicle using remote control with the driver standing outside of the vehicle.
RSPA uses front, side and rear ultrasonic sensors to identify an available parking spot. It uses its front, side and rear ultrasonic sensors to park the vehicle while avoiding nearby obstacles by controlling the steering, acceleration, deceleration and gear-changing functions. After getting off the vehicle, using the Smart key, driver can use remote control of forward and backward movement.”
Parking Assistance Sensors
OEMs all have their own version of parking assistance. However, most parking assistance systems are controlled by ultrasonic sensors located on the front and back bumpers. Some systems also have ultrasonic sensors located on the sides of the vehicle as well. These sensors emit sound waves, which bounce off of objects around the car. Then, the car is able to quickly calculate the distance to any objects bouncing these sound waves back to the car.
Most parking assistance systems use ultrasonic sensors; however, some utilize electromagnetic sensors behind the bumper, radar sensors located in the corners of the vehicle, and/or cameras. These cameras could either be a backup camera located in or near the rear bumper or 360-degree surround view cameras. The latter utilize multiple cameras throughout the car to provide a composite video of the vehicle’s surroundings on your in-car monitor.
Parking Assistance Sensor Notices
It’s important to know how ADAS sensors work. It’s also vital to know that they may not work under all conditions. Drivers need to be aware that their parking assistance sensors will need to be serviced throughout their car’s lifetime. A console notification is a good sign that your car’s sensors need to be calibrated. Possible parking sensor warning messages include the following:
- Service park assist system
- Service parking assist
- Park assist blocked
- Reset park assist
- Reset park assist sensor
- Rear parking assist unavailable
If your vehicle provides one of the above warnings, it’s likely that your parking sensors may need calibration.
ADAS Sensor Calibration
Removing or replacing parking assistance sensors will typically require initialization, azimuth test, verification, or calibration, depending on the manufacture. Similar to other ADAS sensors, when uncalibrated, or calibrated incorrectly, these safety systems can malfunction, creating an unsafe driving situation.
ADAS calibrations are the fastest growing and most complex element in the automotive industry. Car ADAS Solutions is the calibration technology and services specialist, partnering with the automotive industry to help you build your calibration center, through workspace design, training, proprietary management software, implementation, and continuous support. If you are interested in capitalizing on this new revenue stream of ADAS calibration services, contact Car ADAS Solutions for more information.