Starting later this month, U.S. customers will be able to buy a car that can park itself.
Toyota will bring out a new line of Lexus LS sedans on October 20 here that includes its Advanced Parking Guidance System (called Intelligent Parking Assist in Toyotas in Japan) as an option. Basically, cameras on the outside of the car give the driver a view of a parallel-parking spot. Then, on a touch screen on the dashboard, the driver designates where he or she wants the front and back ends of the car to go. Then the driver flicks a switch. Cameras, sensors and a robotic steering do the rest.
It's pretty wacky to watch, but in a recent visit to Toyota to Japan I asked a Prius owner if he uses it. (Toyota has been selling cars in Japan with the feature.) He tried it once but reverted to manual parking. The old-fashioned manual way, it seems, is just faster.