(Another installment in our continuing series looking at how the cars of yesterday are being transformed into the driverless cars of tomorrow via the technology of today.)
In a Parallel Universe…
Even though it’s probably one of the skills a driver will use the least, it has probably required more return trips to the DMV than any other. Even if you got through your driving test on the first try, this little maneuver probably gives you a moment’s pause anytime you face having to do it. That’s right, I’m talking about parallel parking.
I’d Just as Soon Walk a Little Farther
I’m still not entirely sure why parallel parking is part of the driving test. I’ve driven for the better part of four decades and have dusted off this little gem less than 100 times. Of course, as with anything else, you get really good at something when you do it about three times a year. Or not. It’s like a tricky recipe you only make at the holidays. You know the one. It has expensive specialty ingredients that are only available between November 4th and 7th that have to be held at a temperature between 72 and 77° and cannot be exposed to direct light for more than eight minutes before they are incorporated into the final product. This means that the dish can only be prepared after your guests have arrived and everyone is watching. Come on, you can do this. No pressure.
This lack of confidence has in the past prevented me from taking advantage of a prime, close to the door parking space and I have instead opted for one further away but that only requires me to pull straight in. This approach isn’t all bad. It doesn’t rain every day.
I’ll Gladly Give You This One
As self-driving cars are becoming closer to reality, I’m one of those guys who isn’t necessarily waiting with eager anticipation. I like being at the helm of my vessel and have navigated hundreds of thousands of miles with relatively few incidents. I take pride in the skill set that I have developed and enjoy the feeling of satisfaction I get after navigating through challenging situations. That being said, I would let my car park for me all day, and more and more automakers are making cars that have the feature that allows them to do just that.
On most models, automatic parking begins with the touch of a button. The car itself will search for a suitable spot to stick itself. Once the feature is activated, drive slowly along a row of cars along the curb, and your car will tell you when it sees a break between them long enough for your car to fit. Then it’s just a matter of following instructions. You will shift into reverse and, with your foot over the brake, release the steering wheel. The car will turn the wheel, ease you into the space and indicate when it is time to shift into drive. The car will then straighten the wheel and pull you into the spot. You may have to do a little fine tuning once you’re there, but the car will do a pretty good job on its own.