Parking made easy: a decade of “Park Assist”

Source: Volkswagen
Source: Volkswagen

Ten years ago, Volkswagen was the first automobile manufacturer in the world to introduce parking assistants. Thanks to continuous development, “Park Assist” has become more and more intelligent and can get into the tightest of spaces accurately.

Who has not experienced the frustrating search for a suitable parking space? Whether in Berlin, London or Paris. Parking spaces are in short supply, and not only in the trendy districts of the metropolis. Having finally found one, the next challenge is getting into it. Despite having practised a thousand times, it remains a subject of vexation – both for women and men. In the early 2000s, Volkswagen engineers made it their mission to solve this problem. In 2006, they presented the result: the Park Assist.

For the long-suffering car-parker, this means hands off the steering wheel and sit back. The system supports the driver by automatically performing the correct steering wheel movements to take the ideal line to park. The measurement of the parking space, the assignment of the starting position and the steering movements are automatically undertaken by the Park Assist – the driver only has to accelerate and brake.

So far, so good. At the premiere in the Touran ten years ago the options were still rather limited. A maximum of two moves were possible and parking was only possible parallel to the road. The “vehicle length plus 1.40 meters” requirement resulted in some gnashing of teeth. And so did the search for suitable parking spaces, particularly in narrow city centres, sometimes difficult.

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In the meantime, the development was in full swing. The Park Assist needed to become more functional and user-friendly. And it did. By 2010, parking in spaces lengthwise could be done more quickly. Two years later, the option of parking at right-angles to the road was added. Thanks to ever more complex algorithms, the total of twelve ultrasonic sensors on the vehicle made it possible to consistently and precisely assess the environment. And the required buffer in the size of parking space? This consistently decreased down to a mere 90 centimetres.

Parallel parking? Yes! Parking at right-angles to the road? Yes! What was still missing was forward parking. Again, it was only a matter of time before the Volkswagen engineers presented a solution. In 2015, the time had come. The Generation 3.0 leaves virtually nothing to be desired. Park Assist needs only 80 centimetres of elbow room to slot the driver into the parking space of their dreams. An “emergency brake” is now available too. Although this cannot completely eliminate parking accidents, it can at least minimise the damage.

In the past decade a lot has happened in the cockpit too: formerly, only a simple representation of the environment consisting of six objects, similar to the earliest computer games from the 1980s, was possible; now the detailed environment and the swing out area can be shown on a digital map, calculated by an intelligent system. And not only in the CC, Golf, Passat, Sharan, Tiguan and Touran Volkswagen models, but also in commercial vehicles such as the Caddy and the Crafter.

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Park Assist not only wrote its success story in Germany, but makes parking a breeze throughout almost the entire world. Although the trend is heading toward trained and remote-controlled parking and automated driving, one thing is certain: Park Assist remains the basis for further development.