Kicked to the curb

Nov. 5, 2015
Survey finds drivers reject self-parking technologies

When it comes to semi-autonomous and fully autonomous vehicles, there’s a cursory warning flag: Drivers are avoiding the use of  initial systems such as self-parking technology designed to make driverless vehicles a reality, and most say they don’t trust such gizmos, even though the systems often perform parking tasks better than humans can.

Those findings come from a recent AAA survey of U.S. motorists that also discerned 80% of American drivers are confident in their parallel parking abilities, with only one in four saying they would trust self-parking technology to park their vehicle.

“Autonomous features, such as active park assist, are rapidly being introduced into new vehicles, yet American drivers are hesitant to let go of the wheel,” John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair, noted in a statement.

Yet even AAA’s own testing found self-parking technology outperforms unassisted human drivers in four key areas:

  • Drivers using self-parking systems experienced 81% fewer curb strikes.
  • Self-parking systems parallel parked the vehicle using 47% fewer maneuvers, with some systems completing the task in as few as one maneuver.
  • Self-parking systems were able to park a vehicle 10% faster.
  • Self-parking systems were able to park 37% closer to the curb.

It’s worth noting that other surveys discerned that providing safer driving might be a tipping point where autonomous vehicle systems are concerned.

AAA tested self-parking technology on five 2015 model-year vehicles:  Lincoln MKC, Mercedes-Benz ML400 4Matic, Cadillac CTS-V Sport, BMW i3, and Jeep Cherokee Limited.

While self-parking systems that were tested performed well and parked quicker and more accurately than an unassisted driver, AAA did note this technology is not without flaws.  For example, Nielsen said that some systems parked the vehicles exceedingly close to the curb, leaving wheels and tires vulnerable to scratches and costly repairs.

“AAA recommends that drivers leave 6 to 8 in. between the vehicle and the curb when parallel parking, [but] some systems leave as little as a one-half inch buffer,” he added.

Still, the upshot is the technology parks a car better than a human driver. But humans still avoid using it—even if it’s built into the vehicle as a standard feature.

Does this portend a slower-than-expected adoption rate for more advanced autonomous vehicle systems? Maybe. In any event, it’s a big hint that getting drivers to give up control of their vehicles will be a far from easy task.

Sean Kilcarr is Fleet Owner’ s executive editor. He can be reached at skilcarr@fleet­own­er.com

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr | Editor in Chief

Sean previously reported and commented on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry. Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

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