Few life challenges have received as much attention from engineers as parallel parking. Here’s a look-back and at what’s to come.
This week Tesla Motors announced that it has placed a few autonomous Model S super-sedans in the hands of beta testers. Apparently Tesla sees an untapped market for folks that want to pay about $100K to not drive their car. That may be true for some, but we suspect what many owners really want is a way for the car to park itself.
One of the first technologies Tesla demonstrated was a system to allow a driver to exit her vehicle and let the Model S back itself into a tight garage. Every major automaker now offers technology that will help drivers parallel park, not just into a spot, but also help them leave. May we suggest politely that if you are unable to exit a parking space without help you may want to attend one of the fine auto schools in your area?
Years ago inventor Brooks Walter Sr. saw the opportunity to improve the way the ginormous iron battle wagons of the post-war U.S. parked. Walter’s idea was to put the spare to good use. Using a power-take-off to couple the driveshaft to the spare, Walter’s system could allow a vehicle to rotate out of a tight parking space. The driver then would be sworn and beeped at while those in the lane he was blocking waited for the Walter-equipped vehicle de-couple the power take off, re-store the spare in the trunk, and then couple the driveshaft back to the rear axle. Aside from the time the system takes to operate, the reality of a trunk that can open and close from the bottom anywhere in snowy America is a rust and breakdown nightmare waiting to happen. Still, kudos to Walter for his mechanical masterpiece.
As the popularity of add-on solutions like the Bumper Bully has proven, Americans need and want help parking. Tesla’s on to something.