Stress less when parallel parking?

If parallel parking causes your palms to sweat, carmakers have just the thing. A new study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ford Motor Company revealed that drivers showed reduced heart rates and stress levels thanks to an automatic parking-assist system.

Announced in a November 4th press release, the study analyzed 42 drivers using EKG monitors to measure stress - i.e., skin conductance, skin temperature, peripheral blood flow, muscle tension, and heart rate - when parallel parking or backing into concealed parking spaces. The results suggest that drivers are less stressed about challenging parking maneuvers when they get a little help from an automatic parking-assist system.

Ford, which uses the technology in many of its models, enlisted the aid of MIT New England University Transporation Center to discover how it helps drivers. The study, which lasted nine months, found the average heart rate of drivers dropped by 12 beats per minute while using Ford's Active Park Assist technology. Drivers also reported feeling less stressed and having "positive reactions" to the new technology.

The system uses sonar to guide the vehicle into a parking spot, and the sonar can determine if the vehicle will have enough space to park. The driver controls the brakes and thrust, while the computer turns the vehicle into position. The study factored in the difference in heart rate acceleration caused by physically turning the wheel.

Toyota Motor Corporation developed the first automatic parking system in 2003 for its hybrid Prius models and later Lexus adopted the system. Many carmakers have sinced followed suit, offering their own versions of the system.

To see the Ford parking-assist system in action: http://www.engineeringtv.com/video/Fords-Active-Park-Assist

To access a white paper on the study:
http://agelab.mit.edu/system/files/file/Driver_Wellness.pdf

 

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