The Car That Parked Itself

(Stereotype alert) It’s every woman’s worst nightmare and every man’s favorite challenge. It haunts little sixteen-year-olds with nightmares of orange cones and rear-view mirrors and is undoubtedly the cause of 78% (not at all verified) of all road rage. Some call it “The Gauntlet,” but to most it is known only as parallel parking.

Well, parallel parking, it’s time to meet your maker. Because Ford has developed a system that enables cars to parallel park (pause for dramatic effect) themselves.

I’m not kidding. I was, however, rather unbelieving at first. I had seen the commercials, and I just couldn’t believe that this technology would actually be good enough to stick around. See, life (and brothers) have taught me the valuable lesson that a paralleling parking spot is only as daunting as the man or woman behind the wheel. Like ninjas, we train in the shadows and hone our skills to perfection, all the while awaiting that moment where we jump to the rescue and save the day by nestling the car into a seemingly impossible spot without even a suggestion of bumping either of the cars in the line. Science, as far as I was concerned, could no more parallel park than it could paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Parallel parking was an art, not a science.

And then came the moment when I got to put my proverbial foot in my proverbial mouth and immediately regret all those ninja references. Because science has perfected parallel parking.

It makes sense, really. If you know where the spot is, and you know how long it is, and you know how close it is, shouldn’t there be an equation for that? If my (too much) time in college calculus taught me anything, it’s that there are plenty of less useful equations out there.

So here’s the deal. You switch Active Park Assist on and slowly drive next to the row of cars in which you wish to park. When the car finds a spot, it will tell you to pull forward and then to stop. At this point, you simply put the car in reverse, control the speed by pressing on and off the brake pedal, and pump your fists to the sky in victory as the wheel spins effortlessly and untouched, landing you exactly where you wanted to be. If cherry pie had any kind of reputation for being slick or smooth, I would say it’s slick as apple pie. The sensors in the rear and sides of the car make sure to avoid contact, while the car’s computer knows exactly what angle at which to turn and when to start. It’s awesome.

Give it up for the engineers at Ford, because this stuff is ridiculous. Of course, we’ve had complex aircraft driving themselves for over half a century, but this is a great starting point for consumer automobiles. I can say, without any reservation, that this is a feature that will soon become a staple in every new car, and will undoubtedly be followed up with more crazy autopilot features. I can’t wait. Welcome to the future everybody.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *