Editor's Note: This article is part of our ongoing coverage commemorating 25 years of the PACE Awards for supplier innovation. For more about the program, visit the PACE Awards site.
Valeo honored for parallel parking technology
To commemorate 25 years of PACE Awards for supplier innovation, Automotive News each week looks back at one of the many winners.
2008: Valeo Interior Controls
Trade name: Park 4U semi-automatic parallel parking
Innovation: Valeo integrated software and sensors to aid drivers in parallel parking.
Why it resonated: Who enjoys parallel parking? After Volkswagen debuted it on the Tiguan in 2007, five more automakers rushed to offer it in 2008.
It was an answer to the prayer of every white-knuckled student in driver's ed: a technology that would make it notably easier to parallel park. And it did so while leaving the driver in control.
Valeo Interior Controls' Park 4U system used ultrasonic sensors located front and rear, automated low-speed steering and in-vehicle electronics and software to help drivers parallel park easily.
As the vehicle moved down the road, the system sensed potential parking spots, and then went into action when the driver stopped by one — even one on a hill — and shifted into reverse.
Park 4U automatically steered, turning the wheels just right to slip into the spot. It used display and audio information to tell the driver when to stop or when to back up or pull forward to adjust to the parking space. But the driver remained in control of the maneuver via gear selection, the accelerator and the brake. If the driver touched the steering wheel while parking, the system immediately deactivated.
Park 4U didn't work in the tightest of spots, such as those on a crowded Manhattan block. A workable spot needed to offer 16 inches of extra space both front and rear to qualify as an appropriate parking place. But the benefit of aid in a task that some drivers hate and others avoid altogether was obvious. After Volkswagen debuted Valeo's Park 4U on the Tiguan in 2007, five more automakers rushed to offer it in 2008.
Further refinements followed, including the ability to assist in angled parking spaces, and in exiting a parking space. In 2011, Valeo demonstrated an upgrade that allowed the driver to get out of the vehicle before parking and control the system from a smartphone.
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