Easy parker

German automotive engineers have unveiled technology that parks your car for you. The technology is likely to enter series production in 2007, according to its developer, Bosch.

Specifically developed to take the pain out of parallel parking, the semi-autonomous parking assistant (SPA) first uses sensors to spot, measure and then alert the driver to a suitable parking space. Once the driver has stopped the vehicle near the space the system then uses a network of tiny, unobtrusive ultrasonic sensors and on-board software to calculate the steering manoeuvres required to park the car.

With a range of up to 3m, these sensors emit inaudible sound waves which, if they strike an obstacle, are thrown back as an echo and caught by the sensor.

While the driver continues using the gears, brake and accelerator, SPA takes control of the servo-motor within the power steering system and, regardless of the angle the driver has left the car at, effortlessly guides the vehicle into its space.

The technology can be used only on vehicles equipped with electric power steering systems, such as the Honda Insight and Volkswagen Lupo.

Dr. Thomas Kropf, head of systems development at Bosch, said that the long-term goal is to develop a fully autonomous system where electric brakes and accelerator would enable the system to take full control of the vehicle.

While existing parking assistance systems, fitted to approximately five per cent of new cars sold in the US, are typically limited to alerting the driver to the proximity of other parked cars, Japanese car manufacturer Toyota also introduced a self-parking system on its Prius last September. However, due to different regulatory standards and the design of the Japanese system, it is thought unlikely to make an appearance in US and European markets.

Kropf declined to reveal whether there is a definite customer for the SPA system.

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