• Automated parking can bridge the gap between the cars of today and the autonomous vehicles of the future
  • The number of parking related accidents could be significantly reduced
  • Parking technology is becoming smarter, cheaper and more accessible all the time

Depending on who you ask, fully autonomous cars are anywhere between two and ten years away and there are many technical, legal and emotional hurdles to overcome. However, in the run up to having cars that drive themselves we can look forward to increasing levels of driver assistance for the more routine, annoying (or sometimes embarrassing) tasks.

Helping you cope with the squeeze

The average UK parking space is 4.8m by 2.4m (7.8ft by 15.7ft). The growth in popularity - and size - of large SUVs as well as family hatchbacks, saloons and even 'smaller cars' being made bigger with each generation mean that parking can be a bit of a squeeze.

Parking-related incidents account for more than 30% of all accidents with more than 675,000 parking collisions registered each year.

So roll on cars that can safely park themselves while you sit back and relax. The more advanced systems can even park the car while you watch from outside. Useful for squeezing a large car into a small space or parking tight against a wall or hedge - without you then needing to contort your body to fit through a narrow door opening, or clamber over the centre console to get in and out.

How does it work?

The technology itself isn't new. The feature was first unveiled back in 2006. Since then, it's got better and cheaper with every generation to the point that it's now an optional extra on family hatchbacks. 

The systems generally work by you selecting the manoeuvre you'd like the car to do - say a parallel park or reversing into a space. It'll then use 360 degree cameras and sensors to find a space. Once it's found one, you select reverse and it'll turn the wheel and move into the space like a pro, saving you the embarrassment from any onlookers, not to mention your lovely alloys from being kerbed.

What next?

Looking to the future, this technology is likely to develop to the point where cars can help find their own spaces by scanning for empty bays, feeding this data into the cloud and using sat nav to direct you to a space before parking in it, saving you the time and hassle of driving around aimlessly looking for somewhere to park.

Further ahead, your future car could valet park itself. You'll get out at a drop off point and your car will drive off to find a parking space on its own. When you're ready to leave, you'll summon it back and it'll come get you.

From this point, it won't be a massive leap to take us to the next level and have fully autonomous vehicles and perhaps by this time, the world will be ready for them.