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Car Parks Itself

Anyone who's ever taken a driving test knows the hardest part is parallel parking.

But new technology may send that problem the way of the Edsel.

Help is at hand in the form of a car that parks itself, as CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips discovered.

He showed viewers a steering wheel turning on its own as he kept his hands off and a car pulled into a tight spot, on its own.

All the driver controls is the speed, via the brake peddle.

The car's computer senses when it's time to turn the wheel the other way "and tuck that little baby in," Phillips explains.

Then, a computerized voice says, "The assist is over."

It happens in a new Toyota eco-friendly hybrid car now available in Britain with a $700 "parking assist" option.

It isn't for sale in the United States yet, but its promoters in the UK say it's coming.

"It's just a very good way of moving technology forward and actually making life easier," says Toyota UK's Alun Parry. "People who really didn't like parking very much, we wanted to give them the option to let the car actually do it for themselves."

If you pull up ahead of a space you've spotted and shift into reverse, a dashboard image from the car's rear-bumper-cam appears, Phillips pointed out.

Drivers push a button to command the car to parallel park. Cameras on the car's bumpers work with the on-board computer to calculate where the car has to move and how to turn the wheels.

A green box appears on a dashboard screen to signify where the car's parking space will eventually be, and a yellow representation of where the car will be moving appears on screen as well.

That, Phillips remarked, saves wear and tear on the car, and maybe on the people in it.

"Is this is also to be considered something of a relationship saver?" Philips asked.

"Maybe," Parry laughed.

What it doesn't do yet is find you a space or tell you the car won't fit in the space you've found. That latter feature is slated to come to the UK in November.

Some 70 percent of the people who bought that model car have asked for the self-parking option, Phillips says.

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