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Parking Assist 101

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author photo by Autotrader May 2011

Driving continues to get easier and easier, thanks to new technologies like assisted parking. While there's clearly a downside to cars that do all the work for you, automated parking seems to help more than hurt. Read on to see how this technology works, if it's an option on a car that appeals to you and whether or not you need some automated help when it comes to parallel parking.

How It Works

Although it varies by manufacturer, the basic idea is the same: the driver wants to park and presses a button to engage the park assist system. With sensors, the car recognizes an open spot and through an in-car message alerts the driver that it's ready to park. (The driver may have to adjust the guides slightly if the car has miscalculated where the car to the rear is, for instance.) The driver puts the car in reverse, keeping a foot gently on the brake, then the car steers itself into the parking space. The system still requires some driver involvement, you'll have to brake to keep the car's speed in check and to avoid hitting an obstacle.

Where to Find It

Still fairly new to the US market, parking assist is available in BMW, Ford, Lincoln, Toyota and Lexus models. (Overseas you can find it on makes including Volkswagen, and Honda.) BMW's Park Assistant is available on the all new 5 Series and the 2012 6 Series. Ford's Park Assist system is an option on the Explorer, Escape, Flex and even the very affordable Focus, while sister brand Lincoln has it on the MKS and MKT. For Toyota, the Advanced Parking Guidance System (APGS) is available on the upcoming Prius V and Lexus LS. As an additional feature, the APGS allows you back into a space (as well as parallel park).

Bottom Line

Is it worth it? That depends – if you rarely attempt to parallel park yourself, then yes, this feature will be a miracle worker for you on those rare occasions when you have no choice but to parallel park. If you still enjoy the hands-on challenge of wedging yourself between two obstacles and consider yourself a pro parker, then skip it. Since parking assist usually comes as part of an optional package, you may get this extra feature even if you don't specifically want it. Regardless, at least now you know how it works.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Parking Assist 101 - Autotrader