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Automatic Park Assist Explained

Automatic Park Assist Explained

Do you suck at parking? No doubt, being able to park your car is one of the most elemental parking tasks, but it’s also one that many drivers struggle with. Whether it’s inching out of a tight spot or trying to figure out where the car ends, every driver occasionally experiences difficulties when parking. For some, this has led to dented bumpers, scratched paint, and damaged wheels. Thanks to modern technology, parking has transformed from an art to a science. Vehicles equipped with Automatic Park Assist automates the process of searching for a parking space and getting into that spot. 

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What Is Automatic Park Assist?

As the name implies, Automatic Park Assist is an automated parking aid that helps the driver search for open parking spots and park with great precision. At the core of this automated parking feature is the Parking Guidance System (PGS) which is an advanced system that provides motorists with dynamic information within controlled areas. Over the years Parking Guidance Assist technology has greatly evolved. Nowadays they utilize laser and ultrasound technologies as well as camera-based solutions to the vehicles in spots and use automated commands that guide the parking process. 


Automatic Park Assist technologies can slightly differ across auto manufacturing brands. The most advanced systems can take control of the entire parking experience as the driver stands outside the vehicle. At minimum Park, Assist combines front and rear parking sensors and the system helps steer the vehicle using voice commands. 


How Does Automatic Park Assist Work?

In most cars and SUVs, Park Assist works in conjunction with Front Park Assist and Rear Park Assist ultrasonic sensors. In addition, there are two additional ultrasonic sensors on the left and right sides of the vehicle. The side sensors are able to hunt for an empty parking spot when the car is moving at about 18mph or below while in Forward gear. The system steers the vehicle into the parking spot while in Forward or Reverse gears while the vehicle is traveling at 6mph or slower. 


Breakdown On Using Park Assist

Here is a step by step breakdown on how to use Automatic Park Assist:


  • Activate Park Assist by pressing the button when you are searching for a parallel parking space. Hold down on the button to switch to perpendicular parking.
  •  The system will automatically start searching for the parking spot. Turn on the left signal to find a spot on the left or right to find a spot on right.
  • The Parking Guidance System provides instructions in the instrument cluster such as “Stop”, “Put in Reverse” and then “Parking Complete”. 
  • The driver changes the gears while the program does most of the necessary steering.
  • Park Assist displays warning alerts such as; distance to objects in a low-pitched beeping sound.
  • Once the vehicle is successfully parked, Automatic Park assist shuts off. 


There are several versions of Park Assist. Most automakers modify this program to offer a unique feature to potential buyers. 

Enhanced Automatic Park Assist

Enhanced automatic park assist also uses sensors along the front, rear, and sides to detect empty parking spaces. This system can help you park alongside vehicles as well. However, enhanced Automatic Park Assist takes over the steering, braking, and even shifts gears automatically without driver intervention while the vehicle is moving at a low speed. Enhanced Automatic Park Assist lets the driver know when they can let go of the steering wheel so that it can steer your vehicle into the parking space.


The driver should remain in the vehicle during the parking maneuver and be prepared to brake hard, override the steering, and gear selection. This will disable enhanced automatic park assist. If you step on the brakes while the system is parking your vehicle it will pause the maneuver. If you keep your foot on the brake for an extended period it will disable Enhanced Automatic Park Assist.


Enhanced Automatic Park Assist can also help you make your way out of some parking spaces. You’ll have to activate the Enhanced Automatic Park Assist button. If the system offers the driver the option to unpark the vehicle it can unpark the vehicle from that particular spot and point you towards traffic so you can easily pullout. 


Front and Rear Park Assist

Front and rear park assists is a feature offered in Chevy, GMC, and Volvo's latest lineup. Front and rear park assist is a safety technology that uses multiple sensors strategically placed on the front and rear bumpers. It helps drivers park their vehicles by detecting objects in close range. When you’re driving the vehicle at low speeds it can pick up on objects up to eight feet behind the vehicle and four feet in front of the vehicle. 


When an object is detected, the system produces a low-pitched beep to alert the driver. Depending on the automaker, the vehicle might be equipped with a Safety Alert Seat which pulsates on both sides when an object is detected in the rear or front of the vehicle. The closer you come to the object, the louder the beeps will get or the intensity of the seat vibrations will increase. The rear camera will flash amber warning triangles to further alert the driver. In some vehicles, front and rear park assist will display a guideline that shows all the detected objects in your vehicle’s path.


This safety system does have its vulnerabilities. It’s important to note that front and rear park assist doesn’t detect all pedestrians, bicyclists, children, animals, and objects. It isn't capable of detecting objects that are below the bumper. Therefore, when you are parking using front and rear park assist you’ll want to make sure you check the area where you are backing up or pulling up. While most front and rear park assist sensors are placed on the bumpers the exact location can vary depending on the auto manufacturer. 

Automatic Park Assist and Self-Parking Cars

The holy grail of Automatic Park Assist is those vehicles that can park themselves without the driver even having to be inside the vehicle. With these types of vehicles, the driver sends their car into the parking garage and requests its return once they are ready to depart. 


The only technology that has been able to partially achieve this functionality for mass production is the Tesla Smart Summon. Owners can summon their vehicle with the manufacturer’s app. However, for the system to work, the owner will need to be within 200 feet of the car.


Mercedes Benz partnered with Bosch to create the new Intelligent Park Pilot. Intelligent Park Pilot was to serve as a replacement to traditional valet service. As of now, this system is exclusive to the 2021 Mercedes Benz 8-Class. It can fully park the S-Class by itself and the Intelligent Park Pilot system retrieves the vehicle when the owner is ready to pick up the car. Intelligent Park has not been fully activated because there are still some infrastructure kinks to work out.


What Are The Best Vehicles With Automatic Park Assist?


Did you know that there are several models on the market that are capable of automating the parking process? Several automakers have implemented this technology in their latest lineup. Check out our list of the best vehicles with Automatic Park Assist:


Cadillac XT4

The Cadillac XT4 is a luxury crossover available in three trim levels; Sport, Luxury, and Premium Luxury. The Luxury and Premium Luxury trims have the classic Cadillac style interior and exterior. The Sport version with its black mesh grille and dark gloss window moldings features a more dynamic style with an international flair. The XT4 is equipped with an Enhanced Visibility Package which includes a high-definition surround-view camera system, rear camera, and rear pedestrian alert. This state-of-the-art vehicle is also equipped with Automatic Park Assist with braking. In the Cadillac XT4, the Automatic Park Assist is capable of locating parking spots, maneuvering the vehicle into the spot. It also performs all the braking and steering functions.


2021 Lincoln Navigator

The 2021 Lincoln Navigator is a full-size sport utility vehicle equipped with a plethora of cutting-edge technology. This Lincoln is equipped with Enhanced Active Parking Assist which helps the driver find an appropriate size parking spot. The driver controls the gear changes, acceleration, braking but the steering is hands-free while Enhanced Active Parking Assist is in operation. 


2021 BMW 7 Series

The BMW 7 Series is a favorite for luxury car buyers. The 7-series are equipped with Parking Assistant Plus technology for parallel and perpendicular parking. The ultrasonic sensor detects suitable parking spots and the driver will need to hold down the corresponding button to activate and operate Parking Assistant Plus. The great thing about Parking Assistant Plus is that it takes control of every step of the parking process which includes; acceleration, braking, steering, and gear shifting. 


2021 Chevy Malibu

This midsize family sedan surprisingly offers Automatic Park Assist on its Enhanced Driver Confidence Package which is only available on the model’s top-level Premier trim. The parking aid isn’t the most sophisticated system on the market but it gets the job done. The Automatic Park Assist in the Chevrolet Malibu handles all the steering but the driver is in charge of gear selection why the steering is automated. 


Benefits and Drawbacks Of Automatic Park Assist Systems


Over the years, driver surveys consistently show that parking is too anxiety-inducing a task that drivers face while behind the wheel. Fortunately, Park Assist and its automated features take the stress out of parking. It hunts down an appropriate size parking space, maneuvers the vehicle into the spot and some systems even go as far as to unpark the car. 


Most of the low-speed accidents that occur are during parking which can lead to injuries like whiplash, concussions, soft tissue damage. These minor accidents can end up resulting in thousands of dollars in property damage. Automatic Park Assist significantly decreases accidents by providing assistance to drivers. It also gives drivers peace of mind knowing that there is a system in place that can alert them to nearby objects and help them perfectly park their vehicle.


Advanced park assist programs that are designed with surround-view provide the driver with an overhead view of the environment along with visual cues and a 3D animated model of their vehicle. 


While Automatix Park Assist offers so many benefits it isn’t widely available. This feature is typically offered in luxury vehicles or top-level trims. Also, park assist systems do have their drawbacks:


  • The parking sensors have blindspots so not every object can be detected.
  • The front of the car might swing out in the direction of oncoming traffic so the driver should be prepared to apply the brake
  • Drivers will need to pay attention to people and animals in the proximity of the car because some sensors don’t detect them.


Although park assist technology takes control of nearly every aspect of the parking process, drivers still need to take a proactive approach in watching the road and checking the environment. Technology isn’t perfect so drivers have to be prepared to take over braking and steering. 


Common Questions Related To Automatic Park Assist Systems

Q: Does Park Assist work?

Rigorous testing has shown that Park Assist systems really do work. However, they tend to work best when parking a car in symmetrical spaces rather than haphazard locations. Automatic Park Assist sometimes confuses parallel parking on curved roads.


Q: How much does Automatic Park Assist cost?

The cost of Park Assist sensors largely depends on the make, model, and year of the vehicle. Generally, the cost of replacement sensors can run you anywhere between $10-$450.


Q: How many sensors does a car with Park Assist have?

Cars with rear protection typically have about four-six sensors on the bumper. Vehicles that offer front-end protection have an additional four to six sensors. High-end vehicles manufactured by luxury automakers use six sensors on both the front and rear bumpers. 

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