Auto Tech: Lexus Advanced Parking Guidance System automotive technology
Lexus official demonstrates the optional Lexus Advanced Parking Guidance System. The driver sets the boundaries and parameters with the navigation screen, sets the system, then lets the vehicle park itself!. Click image to enlarge

By Jim Kerr

I have driven the future and the future has driven me. It hides beneath the body panels of the 2007 Lexus LS460. This luxury sedan is the first car in the North American market to offer an Advanced Parking Guidance System.

The Advanced Parking Guidance System (APGS) is much more than a rear view camera or object detection sensors in the bumpers, although the LS460 incorporates those features too. The APGS will, under the driver’s control, automatically parallel or perpendicular-park the car. I was a little nervous about taking my hands off the wheel and letting the computers guide a $100,000 car into a spot tightly flanked by two other Lexus LS 460′s but I needn’t have worried. The system does work – but not without a short learning curve by the driver – namely me!

The first step to automatically parallel-park the car using the system is to slowly drive past the available parking space. Ultrasonic sensors in the front fenders detect the position of the vehicles both behind and in front of the open space. The sensors can detect other vehicles up to 1.6 metres away, so it isn’t critical that the driver idle past the other vehicles too closely but the driver must pull up so they are beside the front bumper of the vehicle in front of the parking spot.

With reverse gear selected, the rear view camera displays an image of the area behind the vehicle on the dash navigation screen. The camera is actually part of the object detection system. Touch the screen to select parallel or back-in parking. You can also select if you want to park on the left side, as you might want to do on a one-way street. If the LS 460 is positioned correctly, a green box will appear on the screen showing the position the car will be parked in. If the LS 460 is a little out of position, a red box will show on the screen. The driver can move the red box around the touch screen until it turns green, indicating the parking path is clear. Obstacles in the parking path are marked by a flag, such as the corner of a bumper and will prevent the box from turning green, but most of the time moving the box will clear the path visually, turn the box green and allow parking to continue.

With the parking area outlined by the green box, the driver touches the OK button on the screen and takes their hands off the steering wheel. The electric power steering computer automatically steers the car into the parking spot while the driver controls the speed with the foot brake. If the car is moving too fast, warning beeps sound along with a warning message on the display. Turn the steering wheel, go too fast, press on the gas or have a dirty camera lens and the APGS will disengage.

The APGS will parallel park the vehicle equally spaced between other vehicles. Final forward and backward position of the vehicle in the parking spot must be done by the driver, but they have both front and rear object detection sensors and the rear view camera to help them move close to another vehicle.

I found that once I had used the system a few times, I could stop the car in the correct area past the parking spot so that the green box would appear on the APGS screen right away. If I was in the wrong spot, it took some time to move the red box to make it turn green. If the ‘OK’ was pressed while the red box was still displayed, the system would tell me where to move the car so the green box would appear. Trying to park in too small a spot would always have a red box appear on the screen.

Back-in parking was similar to parallel parking with the exception of positioning the car before selecting reverse. Just as a driver would without the system, the LS 460 driver would pull slightly past the parking spot and then steer the front end of the car out and away from the parking spot. After that, the procedure is the same as parallel parking.

The APGS will never replace a driver – it is an assist for drivers. It was cumbersome to use at first but quickly became easier. Unfortunately, the APGS is only offered on the Lexus LS 460, so it is priced out of the range of most drivers, but like most new technologies, prices drop and applications expand. Rumour has it the APGS will be offered next year in Japan on the Toyota Camry. Can it be far behind here?