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Hella Introduces Self-Parking Car Technology

Automotive supplier Hella has introduced a new ultrasonic, electronic parking assistance technology — an automated parallel parking system.

Designed to eliminate the frustration and anxiety that most drivers experience when faced with the need to parallel park between two vehicles, Hella’s parking assistance system will begin series production for one automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) in the 2009 model year. Negotiations also are in progress with several other OEMs.

Developed by Hella during the past year, the system requires only one ultrasonic “smart” sensor per vehicle side integrated with the vehicle’s central computer unit and the vehicle’s antilock brake (ABS) and electrical power steering (EPS) systems.

When activated by the driver, the ultrasonic sensor measures parking spaces as the vehicle passes them. If the space is big enough, the system will send an audio or visual signal to the driver.

“All the driver would need to do at that point is press the accelerator and brake pedals while the system automatically steers the vehicle,” said Jean-Francois Tarabbia, CEO of Automotive Electronics for Hella. “The parking assistance system works about as fast as an experienced driver — within seconds — and eliminates most headaches related to parallel parking, such as determining if the parking space is the right size, moving the steering wheel correctly at the right time and backing up and pulling forward.”

Less experienced drivers tend to ignore parking spaces that their vehicles actually would fit into because of the stresses involved in parallel parking, especially in hectic situations, he added.

“The driver is still in full control of the vehicle while the parallel parking maneuver is taking place and can override the system at any time by grabbing the steering wheel,” Tarabbia noted.

Hella’s electronic parking assistance system calculates the optimum path the vehicle needs to take to parallel park, even taking into account curb heights. The system also uses wheel speed and steering angle data supplied by the wheel speed sensors.

If a vehicle does not have EPS, Hella’s parking assistance system can still provide optical and acoustical steering instructions to the driver.

The best location for the ultrasonic sensor usually is a vehicle’s A- pillar, integrated with the exterior trim so it is hardly noticeable. The unit also is less expensive than camera-based systems currently in use.