One of the most important skills of any car owner is parking his or her vehicle in a safe manner. In the past, it required a combination of skillful turning of the wheels and knowing how to use the rear view and side mirrors. Today, however, doing a parallel park or reverse park is so much easier with the development of parking sensors. These technologies allow drivers to maneuver their vehicles in a safer way without ever hitting anybody or anything else.
A Look at Parking Sensors
Also known as proximity sensors, parking sensors are very useful technologies. They alert the driver of the vehicle about potential obstacles while parking. These sensors are often placed at the rear bumper of the vehicle. However, there are also vehicles that have parking or proximity sensors on their front bumper and fenders.
The system delivers either sound waves or electromagnetic frequencies in the direction of the car’s movement. As such, if you’re parking in reverse, the system sends out signals towards the back of the car. Any signal returned will trigger an alarm to notify the driver of a potential obstacle. He can then either apply the brakes or go easy on the gas.
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Types of Proximity or Parking Sensors
There are two types of parking sensors that are common in modern vehicles. Let’s look at them.
- Ultrasonic Proximity Sensors
There are vehicles that use ultrasonic proximity sensors. These work by measuring the distance between the sensor and nearby objects. The sensors are often located in the rear bumpers of vehicles; although there are also some cars that integrate such technologies in their front bumpers. In some instances, the proximity sensors are ingeniously hidden from view so that they don’t detract from the overall aesthetics of the vehicle.
Ultrasonic parking sensors transmit acoustic pulses. A small computer measures the time elapsed between the sending of the pulse and its return to the sending unit. The computer then makes split second computations to determine the distance of the object to the car.
The technology draws its principles on echolocation that bats are known for. These nocturnal flying mammals send out acoustic signals to their front. If the sound gets reflected back to the bat, it makes split-second course-correction to avoid hitting the obstacle. This is the same principle with ultrasonic proximity sensors.
The system connects to an audible alarm system. The closer the distance between the object and the car, the faster is the beeping tone. In some vehicles, pictographs on the car’s dashboard screen display the intensity or strength of the signals. The more solid or the more complete the pictograph is, the closer is the vehicle to a possible object.
There are certain drawbacks to this system. Since its ability to detect objects is dependent on the position of the device relative to the ground, there will always be objects that it may not detect. For example, the device may not detect small items or objects that are below its “line of sight”. Objects that have sound-dampening properties or those that are soft may also not be detected by the device.
As such, if your car has an ultrasonic parking sensor, you’d still have to use your common sense to make sure you don’t hit anything else.
- Electromagnetic Proximity Sensors
The second type of parking sensor involves the use of electromagnetic pulses. These devices send out electromagnetic frequencies that can cover almost everything in the path of the device. Electromagnetic proximity sensors address the limitations of ultrasonic systems. They detect more varied objects compared to ultrasonics.
Many vehicles today that feature this system already come with cameras. When the car is put in reverse, the onboard infotainment screen displays a video of the rear. This can help with the parking of the vehicle in reverse. It’s a better and more effective way to park the car.
How Do They Help?
It is easy to see how parking sensors can help drivers, especially those who may have problems with space-depth perception. There are also people who do not know how to use the side mirror and the rear view mirror when backing up their vehicles. Some folks make the mistake of misjudging the distance of their car to the nearest object.
A parking sensor reduces the stress that often accompanies parking of the vehicle. Whether it’s in reverse, front, or parallel, a driver’s worst nightmare is hitting an object. It can be the wall, a lamp post, a garbage can, or even another person. Parking sensors give drivers enough time to react to an impending collision. They can hit the brakes as soon as they hear the first beep. Or, they can try to ease in the rear of the car inch-by-inch by applying the correct pressure on the gas and brake.
Parking sensors mounted onto the sides of the vehicle can also help prevent hitting another vehicle or an object. This is often true in a gnarly traffic situation.
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Tips for Using Parking Sensors
Proximity sensors are useful among vehicle owners. However, one should never rely too much on these technologies as they can still experience sensor malfunction. Learning to use the side mirrors and the rear view mirror of your car can help improve the performance of these sensors.
Keeping the integrity of the sensors is also very important. They should be free of any debris or particles that can obstruct the sending or transmission of signals. Dirt and snow are examples of particles that can affect the accuracy of the device.
It’s also crucial to learn the system’s alarm in your car. As mentioned, there are those that let out beeping tones. The frequency of these tones increases with a decrease in the distance between the car and an object. It will be wise to pay special attention to how close you can get to an object if the alarm sends out a long, continuous tone.
Parking sensors help drivers park their cars easier and safer. This technology saves your vehicle from costly body repair because of bumping into an object while parking.
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