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Park life

Back up: did that VW just park itself?

A VW Passat estate drives up, it stops half way into the road, the driver gets out, slams the door shut and, as he walks away from the car, he aims a remote control back at it. The car then proceeds to reverse park itself into the available space, turns off the engine and activates the door locks.

No jokes about the parking skills of any particular sections of the population, but it sounds like a dream for many people who feel reversing skills are not the strongest element of their driving.

In fact it’s not a dream. It’s a reality. The scene above was plated out at this year’s Hanover Fair in April, where Volkswagen premiered its Park Assist Vision system. This has the ability to guide a Passat prototype with absolute precision into a perpendicular parking space – the kind available in car parks. As any supermarket shopper knows, these parking spaces are often too narrow to allow drivers and passengers to get in and out of the car comfortably. So why not get out before parking? Park Assist Vision will enable that.

VW has already launched a semi-automatic park-steering system, the Park Assist, in its Touran, Tiguan, Passat and Passat estate to help drivers parallel park. The concept system at the Hanover Fair, which is capable of perpendicular parking fully automatically, adds to that. The only thing the driver needs to do is select an available space on the monitor of the navigation system, set the selection lever of the automatic-drive vehicle (DSG) to P and get out of the car. The driver can, of course, choose to stay in the vehicle until the vehicle has been manoeuvred into its space.

The system works because two cameras, located in the left and right exterior mirrors, are responsible for gauging the dimensions of the parking space. The video signals are transmitted to a 2GHz high-performance computer, which then analyses them and sends commands to the steering and drive systems.

If the driver has initiated the parking manoeuvre, the Park Assist Vision will reverse the vehicle into the parking space in accordance with the previously computed course and using electromechanical power steering, the electronic parking brake, DSG and the engine power produced by the idling mixture.

Two additional cameras at the front and rear of the vehicle as well as the system’s ultrasound sensors monitor the operation and will stop the vehicle if necessary. The driver may also interrupt the manoeuvre at any time using the remote control.

This new driver assistance system is still in the trial phase of development, and a date has not yet been set for introduction of the system to series production.

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