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Vehicle manufacturers see parking technology as a big ‘must have’ for consumers and fleet buyers alike. Whilst the majority of drivers see some need to have driver assistance technology for going forward, it seems that most also have a clear desire for assistance in parking, particularly reversing.
Parking damage in the UK accounts for about 23% of damage claims, and most other countries are similar. Given that the majority of parking damage also involves damage to another vehicle, it’s easy to see the costs and inconvenience are significant. For the car manufacturers there is a positive benefit – as reversing is a problem so many drivers admit they have, it makes for an easier sell of sensor technology.
Reversing/parking sensors were the first solution offered. Whilst these were, and still are, popular drivers still manage to damage their vehicles, as understanding the urgency of the beeps was, quite literally, a ‘hit or miss’.
The past two years has seen a significant increase in reversing cameras and/or all-round vision systems. Combined with the consumer desire to have colour displays for social media and applications in-car, it is cost-effective for the car manufacturers to add a small camera device to link to this. It’s likely that we will now seldom be able to carry out boot-lid or tailgate repair operations without needing to consider these devices. Some are visible and exposed, some have lens cleaning systems (Nissan Note, Qashqai etc), and some retract (such as the Mercedes C Class). These systems have evolved further with door mirror cameras providing a view down the sides of the vehicle.
Parking assistance systems have been available for a while now, evolving to the third or fourth generation in some cases. Some provide automated steering input with instructions to the driver to select the required gear and to apply the brakes, while other systems now are almost completely ‘hands off’, with the vehicle autonomously carrying out the entire manoeuvre once the driver has confirmed the indicated parking space.
The technology continues to advance. The current generation of camera systems can often distort an image due to their wide-angle focal length. Several vehicle manufacturers, together with software and electronics developers, are working on virtual screens that will analyse the image and digitally alter it to provide a clearer image for the driver to understand. Much of this comes from the video games industry experience of taking different ‘points of view’ and making these more realistic.
The same technologies that have enabled autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is also starting to be applied to reversing, with the Infiniti Q50 applying braking when reversing and when in imminent danger of striking another object – this being the first of many. Toyota has also revealed its intelligent clearance sonar that effectively gives a longer range to the parking sensors, together with enhanced software, that can make better decisions to avoid other vehicles and objects. This was revealed at the same time as its panoramic view monitor, giving an enhanced virtual view to aid the driver.
The customer acceptance and desire for these products cannot be ignored. They are easy to sell as an option on a vehicle, and, on many trim levels, are a standard fit that drivers expect on a good specification vehicle. Whatever their cost or capability level, in repair we need to be aware of sensors in the front or rear, cameras in the boot lid, door mirrors or grille, and how these function and relate with other systems. Much as it is easy for manufacturers to sell these systems as they’re a visible tangible benefit, it’s important we repair them correctly. Parking assistance systems have nearly doubled in availability over the past 18 months, so if you’re not familiar, it may be worth you becoming acquainted with them.