Technology is changing the way we drive. From blind spot monitoring and traffic-aware cruise control to intuitive all-wheel drive, the options are virtually endless. But how do advanced driver assistance systems come into play when you’re trying to back into a tight spot in a packed parking lot or parallel park on a busy street? If you think parking is a pain, a backing aid or automatic parking system could help. Learn how these systems work to make precise parking a breeze.

Backing aids

Many vehicles now come with some sort of backing aid that engages when you put your car in reverse. Whether it’s a back-up camera, a sensor system, or a combination of the two, these mechanisms are designed to prevent collisions while you’re backing into or out of a parking space.

Back-up sensors are designed to alert you when your vehicle is getting too close to something behind it, like another vehicle, a shopping cart, or a pedestrian. When the sensors (often embedded in your rear bumper) are activated, they transmit ultrasonic waves that bounce off surrounding objects and transmit a signal when you’ve breached a predetermined “danger zone,” which usually activates an alarm. In some systems, the alarm grows faster and louder the closer you get to the object behind you.

Rear-view or back-up cameras, on the other hand, show live-action footage of whatever is directly behind your vehicle. While some rear-view camera screens use coloured lines to show you just how close you are to hitting something, the camera itself won’t usually trigger any kind of alert unless it’s accompanied by a sensor system.

Automatic parking systems (or self-parking cars)

While backing aids use cameras and sensors to make parking easier, automatic parking systems are designed to do the job for you (almost). Once you’ve located the perfect parking spot, most self-parking cars will do the steering for you while you control your vehicle’s speed using the gas and brake pedals.

Your vehicle uses sensors or cameras (or both) to determine when it’s lined up at a safe distance beside the vehicle directly in front of the open parking spot. Then, thanks to the on-board computer, power steering kicks in and takes over the wheel, maneuvering your car safely into the parking space without hitting another vehicle or the curb.

Advanced driver assistance systems, including backing aids and automatic parking systems, are designed to make roads (and parking lots) safer for drivers and pedestrians alike — but they don’t replace your own driving skills. Whether you’re backing in or parallel parking, pay attention to your surroundings, check your mirrors and over your shoulder, and proceed slowly into the space.

If you’re ready to upgrade to a new vehicle with more up-to-date assistive technology, reach out to your group’s licensed insurance broker to make sure you have the right coverage before driving it off the lot.