If you’re wondering what parking assistance technology is, you’re in the right place. We dive into the various types of parking systems that make parking a breeze.
Cars and technology have never been as closely integrated as they are right now with that partnership constantly expanding and evolving. It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of autonomous driving was relegated to the world of fanciful cartoons like The Jetsons. And yet, modern cars are getting there (albeit without flying) including tapping into advanced parking assistance tech to handle that age-old driving challenge – parking.
What is parking assistance technology? Well, it’s a bucket of different systems, which aim to ease the challenge of getting your car into a parking spot. In its simplest form, ultrasonic sensors act as proximity alerts, while the most advanced versions can take over and handle the entire process of parallel and perpendicular parking. We’ll cover all the different types of technology below in this guide that aims to answer the question, “What is parking assistance technology”?
Sometimes referred to as parking sonar, ultrasonic sensors have been around for decades. Often identifiable by a series of small circular inserts running across the rear bumper of a vehicle, this is the system that triggers increasingly urgent beeps as you back your car up. The idea being that you stop the car before hitting an obstacle.
Without a backup camera, this system is especially helpful. But in modern cars, which have been federally required to include a backup camera since 2018, ultrasonic sensors work to bolster the visual guidance of a backup camera with an audible cue. As well, sensors in a car’s front bumper are increasingly common, which comes in handy with tight parallel parking scenarios.
Another useful bit of parking technology that continues to trickle down across the auto industry is the surround-view monitor (SVM). When engaged, an SVM offers an overhead, or birds-eye, view of your car on the central infotainment screen. If you’ve ever winced in shame at dragging your alloy wheels along a curb – not that I can relate or anything – while parking, you can appreciate an SVM.
That’s because it shows the driver exactly where all four sides of their car is to curbs, other cars, and anything else that you’d want to avoid. The trickle-down effect means that even low-cost cars like the Nissan Sentra, one of our favorite compact sedans of 2024, can be fitted with a surround-view monitor.
Falling into the category of active parking, these fully automated systems are still mostly found in higher-end vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which also happens to have one of our favorite backup cameras. Some automaker’s automated parking systems, like Volvo’s Park Pilot, control the steering wheel during parallel and perpendicular parking maneuvers while you manage shifting, throttle, and braking.
Other versions, like Ford’s Active Park Assist 2.0, will identify an appropriate space and handle every aspect of the parking maneuver including shifting, steering, gas, and brake pedal application. With these types of systems, the driver stays in the car and activates the self-parking tech via a button or toggle on the center console or dashboard.
With Hyundai’s Remote Smart Parking Assist, however, you can stand outside the car and control the system with the key fob. In this case, the feature can only pull the Hyundai forward into a space and reverse it back out, but not execute complex parallel or perpendicular parking moves. This makes it ideal for parking in spaces that are so tight you might struggle to open your door once parked.
For the full Batmobile effect, a cutting-edge aspect of parking assistance technology has been dubbed “Summon” by Tesla. As the name implies, the car can be summoned from its parking space using a connected app. In basic form, Tesla’s Summon feature works much like Hyundai’s Remote Smart Parking Assist in that it can move the car in and out of a parking space in a relatively straight line.
But, with Smart Summon, Tesla is promising the ability to have your car pull up in front of you from as far away as 213 feet away. As with so much of Tesla’s tech, this one isn’t exactly ironed out, but they are working on it.
Mercedes Intelligent parking functions like Tesla’s Smart Summon and has the technology embedded into Benzes like the S-Class flagship. Once the infrastructure is in place, Mercedes can then effectively flip a switch to make it functional. In the hilarious “Valet Guys” ad, Mercedes takes a page from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to illustrate one particular benefit of this kind of parking tech.
One other feature that is a useful aspect of any comprehensive parking assistance technology suite is a safe exit warning. Safe exit warning steps in after you’re parked with an alert to keep your door closed if a vehicle is approaching from the rear. It’s a nice way to avoid the Tommy Boy situation where your car door opens a full 180 degrees.
Lexus has gone further with a more advanced safe exit assist feature. With safe exit assist, Lexus marries its electronic door-latching mechanism with the blind-spot view monitors. Along with watching for vehicles, this SEA system can identify approaching cyclists. By keeping the door closed in this scenario, the car can help you prevent a “dooring” accident that involves your car door and a bicycle becoming one.