Tested by AAA: People park worse than self-parking cars

Humans lose out to the machines this time. In American Automobile Association tests, self-parking cars did the deed faster and more precisely than human drivers.

car parking in garage close up

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You can’t park, and neither can I. At least, we likely can’t park as good as a car can, if it has self-parking technology installed. That’s the conclusion of tests conducted by the American Automobile Association and announced Monday night. 

The parking tests were conducted in partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. They used four drivers in five different cars with self-parking features. The cars were a a 2015 BMW i3, a 2015 Cadillac CTS-V Sport, a 2015 Jeep Cherokee Limited, a 2015 Lincoln MKC, and a 2015 Mercedes-Benz ML400 4Matic.

The drivers parked the cars themselves five times, then they used the self-parking features to let the car park another five times. The drivers and the cars’ own systems were evaluated on time to complete the parking maneuver, and precision of the car’s placement in the parking spot.

Why this matters: Many drivers are loath to give up control of the car, but tests like these show how the technology advances are fast overtaking our all-too-human driving weaknesses. I’m a confident driver, and I’m actually testing a car with self-parking abilities right now. I have some issues with how it sets itself up to park, and how it chooses a parking spot. It’s also made a few mistakes a human would never make. I do have to admit, however, that when it’s doing the actual parking maneuver, it’s impressively fast and precise. Machine, 1, human, 0.

Cars park faster and more precisely than humans

cars parked underground garage

Self-parking car technology could help drivers in crowded or tightly packed parking lots, assuming we can park our egos at home. 

The results could deflate the most self-satisfied driver. The self-parking systems, armed with rich data from sensors and cameras built into the cars (the humans were allowed to use the rearview camera), completed parking maneuvers 10 percent faster, on average, than the human drivers did. The self-parking systems used 47 percent fewer maneuvers to get into a space, sometimes as little as one maneuver, compared to two or three maneuvers for the typical human driver tested.

Most embarrassingly, self-park systems resulted in 81 percent fewer curb strikes compared to a human-parked car. This was even though the self-parked cars were able to park 37 percent closer to the curb than humans could.

AAA had one quibble with the self-parking systems: Sometimes they got too close to the curb, which can result in damage to the tires or wheels.

AAA doesn’t want you to feel discouraged. We all still need to know how to park. However, for difficult spaces or older drivers, self-parking features could save a lot of stress. Just keep your ego parked at home.

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