How does a self-parking car park itself?

The last few weeks I read a lot of articles on the internet about the famous self-parking car. I´m not great at parallel parking, so this immediately caught my attention. To just push a button and have the car park itself, without being afraid to hit another car or a wall seems like a great idea to me. I´m not that good at parking and I avoid some parking spaces because I feel I have too little space and am afraid that I will hit something. I would definitely buy this self-parking mechanism if I could afford it.

But then I thought: How can a computerized system be a better parallel parker than me? How does this system actually work? Yes, I know about cars that make this beeping sounds when you come close to an object, but a car that parallel park for you without any help? 

First thing I noticed during my research to the self-parking technology, is that the self-parking car doesn’t park completely on its own. You as a driver still regulate the speed of the car. So actually the driver is still the one that is in charge of motion. But that’s all you have to do: The rest is up to the cars’ on- board computer system! This is how the automatic parallel parking works:

The car moves forward, next to the car you want to parallel park on. The car gives you a signal when to stop moving forward. This is when you’re next to the other car.

Then you shift the car in reverse and slowly release the brake. The car will start moving backwards towards the parking space. A power steering system will come to action: The computer will take over the wheel. The wheel turns by itself and backs the car right into the open parking space.

When the car is backed in far enough, another signal tells you to stop and shift the car in drive again. Again you release the brakes and the car will move forward while the wheels adjust to park the car perfectly in the space.

…. And you’re parallel parked!

But how does the system know when to turn the wheel without hitting the other car? Sensors on the car make that happen. On the front and on the back of the car, sensors are placed to detect objects around the car. The sensors send out a signal that bounces off objects and back to the sensors again. The system than calculates how much time it costs before the signal returned and can than calculate the objects around the car. Other cars make use of camera’s hidden in the front and rear bumperor use radars that detect the objects around the car. All three of these method actually work the same: The system detects the object around the car on one way or another and then steers the car through the open spaces between the objects.

If you want to learn more about the self-driving car, check this post on about how self-parking cars work.

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