Park assist is one of the characteristics of an autonomous or semi autonomous vehicle. Many brands like Peugeot, Citroen, Ford and Volkswagen already work with computer vision software so their cars have this feature. Park assist was first developed by Toyota Corporation in 1999 and it was first implemented in Lexus in the U.S.
The system estimates the size of the car, enabling the car to park by itself. This is done by an onboard computer that uses a camera built into the forward and the rear of the car. Sensors located at similar locations detected the proximity of nearby vehicles. Early versions of the system weren’t able to recognize small obstacles, pedestrians and animals. When in presence of a small parking space human presence was required, otherwise the car would flash warning the driver of the danger of hitting another vehicle. A more recent version of the system was able to recognize the parking stripes and in 2006 the systems were using integration with parking sensors. This latest version could calculate the navigation moves needed for parallel or reverse parking and help determine that the car had enough clearance for a particular space.
Nowadays Park Assist Systems combine the following according to Carwow:
- Parking Sensors: this one has been widely used for some time now and, as referred above, is the most common parking device on the market. Sensors fixed on to the bumpers detect the distance of obstacles from the extremities of the car, and deliver an audio sign which becomes louder and faster the closer you get to an obstacle. Some systems are now combined with a digital graphic which shows which part of the car is closest to an object, allowing a safer and more accurate park;
- Reversing Cameras: a step-up from parking sensors, some vehicles now feature a rear and front-facing camera. Mounted high and pointing slightly downward, they show obstacles more clearly than the rear-view mirror. These images can be seen by the driver by a screen in the dashboard, and often report guide lines which show the direction of the car based on the current direction angle and its proximity to obstacles;
- 360-Degree Camera: cars like the BMW X5 feature numerous cameras incorporated around the car generating a 360-degree view image. This makes it easier to see whether or not the driver will be able to park or will scrap the wheels. The optional system on the Range Rover Evoque allows the driver the option of switching between each camera individually.
In other words park assist systems can judge the size of a parking space, inform the driver whether or not it is a suitable spot, and – with the driver controlling the speed – direct its own way into the space. It doesn’t matter if the driver is looking for a space on the side of the road or in a car park – most of these systems are now capable of both parallel and reverse parking maneuvers.