Scores of new motor industry jobs could be on the way to Wales, the Western Mail newspaper reported.

AB Automotive, of Cardiff, is developing a new generation of parking distance controls for worldwide sales and has been "very encouraged" by the interest from vehicle manufacturers.

The TT Electronics subsidiary has been researching and refining its e-Park system for over three years at its Forest Farm base, Coryton, where production would be carried out.

Test systems are being evaluated with vehicles run on the Welsh Water fleet and the technology and prototypes have been studied by car makers around the world.

One of the increasingly popular features or options being specified on cars around the world is parking distance control.

The present generation of parking distance controls use ultrasonic technology, but this is not as effective as e-Park, which creates  a harmless electrical field to identify hazards.

E-park uses digital electronics to generate the field which creates an invisible 'safety balloon' around the ends of the vehicle. Objects coming within this field alter the signal to the sensor and activate an audible warning in the vehicle which can be stopped before it hits the object.

Product development manager Derek Bennett told the Western Mail that e-Park will enhance driving pleasure on any vehicle as well as improve safety.

"We have been very encouraged by the interest shown in e-Park by motor manufacturers in Europe and the US. It has been under development for three-and-half years and we are looking at getting it into production in 2004.

"e-Park is likely to be put on the aftermarket before it goes into car plants as original equipment but we expect its take-up will gradually increase with car makers."

The plant at Coryton currently employs approximately 250 people but it has room to expand as required.

"As e-Park is introduced we will have to take on more staff to meet production levels and this is likely to happen in stages. We are talking about scores of jobs rather than hundreds."

Car makers have applauded e-Park because it is simpler to fit, lighter, easier to dispose of at end of life, and much cheaper than current alternative systems. There is just one electrical connection.

They also like its greater effectiveness in all conditions and the additional safety margins it gives to drivers.

Apart from the confidence it creates in reversing, e-Park has also generated interest from a sports car manufacturer who thinks it could be used facing forward to identify kerbs and road humps which might damage low bodywork.

A further refinement being considered by engineers is fitting to power-operated tailgates on some US minivans which would limit damage when the doors are opened in low ceiling, multi-storey car parks.