Parking sensors have long since ceased to be a trademark for luxury class vehicles. On the one hand, there are now a large number of brands and manufacturers. On the other hand, you can equip virtually any car with a useful parking sensors with the help of a retrofit parking sensors set.
The most common models are those with a visual display and an acoustic signal that sounds an alarm when the distance is too small.
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Type of Parking Sensors Systems
- Ultrasound-based systems
Sensors in the bumpers are the hallmark of ultrasonic-based parking aids. These small, circular units, usually painted the same color as the car, are hardly noticeable. The distinction between two-, four- and six-channel systems is not related to the parking sensors themselves, but to the number of groups installed in the bumpers. This means nothing other than that in a four-channel system, for example, there are four parking sensors in each bumper. Ultrasonic sensors transmit and receive the signals and pass the data obtained from them to a control unit. This calculates the distance to the obstacle based on the wave propagation time.
- Radar-based systems
In the so-called short-range millimeter-wave radar, radar signals replace ultrasound. It works more accurately than ultrasonic devices. Parking sensor tests showed that radar-based reversing detectors respond to obstacles without much loss of time, even when the vehicle is moving fast in reverse gear.
- Systems with a rearview camera
With a rearview camera, parking becomes particularly convenient. A rearview camera also makes parking easier. It is mounted at the rear of the vehicle and films the surroundings. Rear-view cameras are activated when reverse gear is engaged. Depending on the system, different colored lines show the area behind the car or the path resulting from the steering angle.
The advantage of the rearview camera is primarily that they detect even deeper obstacles that parking sensors no longer scan. Retrofitting the rearview camera is relatively simple. In many models, the screen is simply attached to the windshield with suction cups. However, installing a fixed display can be very difficult or impossible, depending on the model and vehicle.
- Surround View Systems
An extension of the systems with a rearview camera is the Surround View System. Manufacturers such as BMW, VW, or Lexus offer it. This category of parking sensors may well be called the royal class among parking sensors. The advantage of an electronic parking sensor lies in the use of several cameras. In addition to the rear-view camera, wide-angle cameras are mounted on the front of the car and under the exterior mirrors. After the images have been digitally rectified, the driver receives them on a screen in the vehicle. BMW supplements its system with two additional cameras in the fender that show cross-traffic at blind spots.
- Self-steering systems
In self-steering systems, the technology takes care of parking. It is an active parking sensor plus an electric motor as well as electromechanical power steering and a measuring system aligned parallel to the road. Some self-steering systems also have a rear-view camera. Retrofitting on one’s own is currently not possible.
How do parking sensors work?
Especially when parking in reverse, many drivers have the problem that they cannot always correctly estimate the length of their vehicle. In addition, the field of vision is restricted by the rear of the car. Other vehicle dimensions are thus difficult to see to the rear.
If you don’t want to or can’t park every time, you increasingly have the option of retrofitting your car with inexpensive models of parking aids. In some high- and mid-range cars, parking sensors are already installed as standard.
The parking sensor lends you a few extra eyes to the rear: if you get too close to an obstacle with the rear of your vehicle, a signal usually sounds to warn you. It warns you that you are getting too close to the vehicle behind you or that the distance is too small. This can prevent a collision and annoying damage.
The distance between your rear and the obstacle is read out by sensors on the car. A system with ultrasound on the parking sensor usually measures the distance.
- To ensure that the parking sensor is not always triggered when you are tailgated in moving traffic, the devices are usually only activated when reverse gear is engaged.
- The parking sensors should always be installed across the entire width of the vehicle.
The sensors are attached to the rear of the vehicle – the bumper, the license plate, or the trailer hitch. In many cases, holes have to be drilled for this. If you do not dare to do this yourself, you can also have the parking aid installed, according to the test. The sensors are connected to a warning and reading device in the vehicle cabin via radio or cable.
You can also install the parking sensor at the front of the car. But the view to the front is usually quite good for the driver, while the view to the rear is rather limited. Therefore, according to the test, it is best to mount the parking sensor at the rear of the vehicle.