Ever wish your car would just park itself?
Our Guest Blogger, Nate Eller, lives in metro Detroit, Michigan. He is a college student currently working on his degree in mechanical engineering. He works as an engineer in new product development for a large Tier 1 automotive supplier. Cars, motorcycles, boats, and any other powered vehicles are a strong passion of his and he wanted to share what new in the world of motors with the readers of AmericanInventorSpot.com.
Here's his article:
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LexusDo you remember learning to parallel park? For some people, this daunting task is often a reason to find a parking spot in a distant lot, where "perpendicular" or even pull-through spots are ample. Even if you are a master parallel parker, often less talented drivers will slow you down while you are in a hurry as they hopelessly finagle their oversized car into a roadside spot. Wouldn't it be nice if, by a push of a button, your car (or the parking-challenged in your way) could parallel park itself? Well, Lexus has now answered the prayers of drivers across America with its Intelligent Park Assist system, which is available for the first time in the new 2007 Lexus LS460 luxury sedan.
How does a car know how to park itself? The LS460 is equipped with a very small camera mounted in the rear or the vehicle, a built in computer, and a steering sensor that all work together to provide nearly effortless parallel parking. Here's how this works:
First, the driver pulls up just in front of a vacant parking spot (no, the car will not find a spot for you!). Next, the driver shifts into reverse and the camera image of the spot pops up on the navigation screen. A box with four arrows pointing in all four directions appears. The driver taps the arrows, moving the box to where he or she wants the car to end up. Once the box is in the position you want, just tap a button on the screen and the car will begin to back up and steer itself into the spot. The driver must keep their foot on the brake though and control the speed of the reverse (and watch for any objects behind the car). Remember, this is nearly effortless; the car won't stop for a person walking behind your car, or anything else you might hit. Once the car is in place, the driver must manually shift into drive and pull forward if need be. Voila! Your car has pretty much parked itself, and you now can walk off to your urban destination worry-free!
Lexus DashboardThe system does have a few rules to follow in order to make it work properly. You must always have your foot on the brake or else the operation will stop as soon as you take your foot away from the pedal. You must also control speed of the vehicle neither too slow nor too fast, or else the operation will be cancelled. Lastly, the spot must be at least four feet longer than the car. That means the spot must be at least 20.5 feet long for the LS460 and 20.9 feet long for the longer-wheelbase LS460L. Sounds fine for most downtown visits, but good luck to you New Yorker's as you try to fit your luxury behemoth into a spot just fit for a Civic!
Park Assist DashboardNow, it comes as no surprise to me that Toyota (Lexus' parent company) had already implemented the Intelligent Park Assist system into a vehicle. Do you know which vehicle this could be? I am sure you have heard of the Toyota Prius, one of the most popular hybrid vehicles on the road today. Since when has Toyota been making a Prius that parks itself? Of course! They don't offer it in the States!
Toyota implemented the Intelligent Park Assist system in the 2005 Prius for the Japanese market only. Not until the 2007 model year did they offer it in the United States. Of course, which vehicle do we see it in? Not a $23,000 hybrid, but a $70,000 V8 luxury sedan. It's the American way! As a matter of fact, the LS model is the only vehicle the system is available in, which happens to be Lexus' most expensive sedan. Once you buy the LS, adding the park assist option will make your wallet even lighter by tacking on an extra $3,425 to the already hefty base price of $69,150. Hey, what's another three grand when you already spent seventy?
Not only has Toyota already implemented its parking assist system in Japan years before we see it in the states, but Honda's "Honda Smart Parking Assist System" has been available in Japan for a few years now also. I can see this system growing in popularity, where not only will Honda have to bring the system to the States, but every company (yes, even you Big 3) will have to implement some sort of parking assist system.
The real question to this new technology is will it work? Can people adapt to using this new feature? Lexus recommends that new owners take a short tutorial at the dealer, learning how to properly use the system. Will this actually slow people down while parking? Or will it create a fantastic new world of non-talented drivers who can quickly and efficiently parallel park; a world where new drivers finally don't back into your car while frantically trying not to get a scratch on mom's Escalade.
I expect to see this technology in more vehicles before the end of the decade, including more vehicles that are in the everyman's price range. Then we can see if this really is a convenience or a nuisance. I also expect to see these park assist systems evolve into a completely automatic self park system, with no need for driver involvement. My question to automakers now is what comes next, autopilot?
Learn more about the Lexus LS460 here.