BMW is the latest automaker to launch a new self parking system, joining the likes of Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen and Lexus who offer similar systems. BMW calls its technology Parking Assistant and it debuts on the new 2011 BMW 5-Series that’s due to hit showrooms this June.
Using an array of technologies including ultrasonic sensors and an electric power steering system, the BMW Parking Assistant makes tricky parallel parking maneuvers a breeze by doing all the steering for you.
If you're traveling at less than 22 mph, the system automatically scans the adjacent lane for available spaces using ultrasonic sensors positioned in the side mirrors. These measure the length and width of potential spaces and if there’s a spot that’s at least 47 inches longer than the total length of the car--so about 240 inches long for the 5-Series sedan—a push of the button on the center console will see the system spring into action.
You still need to control brake and accelerator, as well as listen to the parking sensor system and stop and straighten the wheel when appropriate.
Additionally, for vehicles equipped with Integral Active Steering, which turns the rear wheels slightly in the opposite direction as the front wheels at parking speeds, the system can take full advantage of it, cutting the minimum space needed by about a foot and a half.