Carmakers keep trying to simplify the experience

2 min read
Illustration: mckibillo

The first time I tried parallel parking in a manual-shift car, I got halfway into a spot, nose first, on a sloping cobblestone street in a Pyrenean village before I realized I did not know how to put the car in reverse. I emerged in shame to ask a local for help. My impromptu valet found the ring I had to lift on the shift to put it in reverse gear. He also noted that it would be easier to back into the spot.

Lesson learned. But it is now moot: Last year, a car appeared on the market with a button on the dashboard that could be my next valet. Parking assistance has been street legal since 2003, when Toyota rolled out a Prius model in Japan with the ability to take over steering into a parallel-parking spot. Drivers had to select the parking spot on a dashboard video screen and then operate the gears, accelerator, and brake while the car did the steering. Since then, almost a dozen competitors have introduced parking assistance systems with growing sophistication.

Most rely on wide-angle optical cameras that identify a parking space and ultrasonic sensors for close-in obstacle detection. They can now park parallel or perpendicular, as in a parking garage. Some move faster and some move slower. BMW announced at the September Frankfurt Motor Show that its brand-new i3 would be the first car on the commercial market to give the driver a fully automatic parking option. The i3 system relies on ultrasound sensors to detect parking spots. A display screen offers the potential spot to the driver, who can then approve the choice and take his or her hands off the wheel and feet off the pedals while the car parks. The driver must hold down a button to show that he or she is paying attention, or the car will stop. 

Other carmakers have been showing off driverless parking prototypes too. Some differ from the BMW system in that they rely on communications via a wireless network with infrastructure in a parking garage to navigate to a parking spot. (See this 2009 peek at a Volkswagen demonstration in IEEE Spectrum’s Automaton blog or this Audi demo from the January 2013 Consumer Electronics Show.) These “vehicle-to-infrastructure,” or V2I, systems may offer more sophistication. But as reviewers at Edmunds found in a head-to-head comparison of Toyota’s and Ford’s 2010 hands-off, feet-on parking assistants, simpler interfaces may win over sophisticated ones. For now, BMW’s i3 one-button Park Assistant is the simplest interface of them all.

Virtual Valets

Maker Extent of production self-parking
Audi/Volkswagen Hands-off, feet-on; experimental vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication
BMW Hands-off, feet-on
Chevrolet Hands-off, feet-on
Ford Hands-off, feet-on
Honda V2I
Mercedes-Benz Hands-off, feet-on
Nissan Hands-off, feet-on
Toyota/Lexus Hands-off, feet-on
Volvo Hands-off, feet-on; experimental V2I
The Conversation (0)

TSMC to Build Chip Fab in Japan

Japanese government helps subsidize project as chip shortage threatens economies around the world

3 min read
Pavlo Gonchar/Sipa/AP

After a week of media rumor, leaks and speculation, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), the world's largest contract chip manufacturer, announced in an online earnings briefing Thursday that it would build a semiconductor plant in Japan. The announcement comes just a few months after the chip giant announced its intention to build a $12 billion fab in Arizona. Construction will begin next year, the company said, subject to approval by TSMC's board, with full production expected to begin in 2024.

"The plant will use 22- and 28-nanometer line processing," said Tadahiro Kuroda, Director of Systems Design Lab (d.lab) at the Graduate School of Engineering, the University of Tokyo. "So it's not an advanced foundry like the Arizona plant that will use 7 nanometers." But he adds it can produce a range of devices that go into consumer products, sensors, IoT, and auto parts.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Saifur Rahman Is 2022 IEEE President-Elect

He is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech

2 min read
Virginia Tech

IEEE Life Fellow Saifur Rahman has been elected as the 2022 IEEE president-elect. He is set to begin serving as president on 1 January 2023.

Rahman, who was nominated by petition, received 13,296 votes in the election. Fellow S.K. Ramesh received 13,013 votes, Life Fellow Thomas M. Coughlin received 11,802 votes, and Life Senior Member Francis B. Grosz received 6,308 votes.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

EP29LPSP: Applications in Plasma Physics, Astronomy, and Highway Engineering

Ideal for demanding cryogenic environments, two-part EP29LPSP can withstand temperatures as low as 4K

3 min read

Since its introduction in 1978, Master Bond EP29LPSP has been the epoxy compound of choice in a variety of challenging applications. Ideal for demanding cryogenic environments, two-part EP29LPSP can withstand temperatures as low as 4K and can resist cryogenic shock when, for instance, it is cooled from room temperature to cryogenic temperatures within a 5-10 minute window. Optically clear EP29LPSP has superior physical strength, electrical insulation, and chemical resistance properties. It also meets NASA low outgassing requirements and exhibits a low exotherm during cure. This low viscosity compound is easy to apply and bonds well to metals, glass, ceramics, and many different plastics. Curable at room temperature, EP29LPSP attains its best results when cured at 130-165°F for 6-8 hours.

In over a dozen published research articles, patents, and manufacturers' specifications, scientists and engineers have identified EP29LPSP for use in their applications due to its unparalleled performance in one or more areas. Table 1 highlights several commercial and research applications that use Master Bond EP29LPSP. Table 2 summarizes several patents that reference EP29LPSP. Following each table are brief descriptions of the role Master Bond EP29LPSP plays in each application or invention.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Trending Stories

The most-read stories on IEEE Spectrum right now