Valeo’s new parking slot measurement system, which advises the driver if the car will fit into a given parking space, has been selected by two European car makers and is due to be installed on several future models, the first in 2004.

The parking slot measurement system significantly enhances comfort and confidence for parallel parking, an increasingly challenging manoeuvre in a world of heavy urban traffic with fewer available parking spaces.

Valeo has developed the sensor-based parking slot measurement system applying its proven ultrasonic park-assist (UPA) technology for which it claims to be the world’s number one.

The innovative parking slot measurement system can evaluate the length of a parking slot chosen by the driver and perform an accurate comparison with the length of the driver’s car to indicate if the car will fit into the space.

The system is said to be particularly beneficial in urban areas where parking slots are scarce and space at a premium, or at night when the driver’s spatial judgement may be impaired.

The parking slot measurement system consists of two ultrasonic sensors similar to those used in the current UPA system. These sensors are integrated into the left and right hand side of the front bumper of the car and communicate the requested parking slot measurement information to the driver via existing visual displays.

With the system switched on, the driver simply drives up to an empty parking space between two cars or clearly defined objects by the kerb.

As the driver passes the parking slot at a distance of less than 0.5 metres, the system measures the size of the space. If the car will fit into the space, the driver simply continues as in a normal parking manoeuvre employing the UPA system to judge the available parking distance in relation to a parked car or a static obstacle.

The parking slot measurement sensors are small enough to be unobtrusively integrated into the bumper design. The individual contracts will be customised to suit the needs of each car maker to integrate the system optimally and link it to other systems if required.

In the future, it is envisaged that information from Valeo’s advanced steering angle sensor, which is in volume production with the major German and French automotive customers, can be combined with the parking slot and UPA system to instruct the driver of optimal steering torque and timing during parking. This is expected to improve parallel parking even further, minimising additional parking adjustments thereby reducing unnecessary driver tasks and saving time.

The new system uses the same electronic control unit (ECU) and ultrasonic sensors as UPA to interpret and communicate parking slot measurement information.

The system has been developed in France and Germany. Extensive testing was carried out in urban Paris, an area notorious for its congestion and scarcity of parking spaces.

The parking slot measurement systems for the two car makers will be produced in Germany initially.

Valeo estimates the ultrasonic sensor market at nearly 500 million euros in 2005.