Teenagers share horror tales about it. Otherwise competent adults break into cold sweats at the mere thought of doing it. Some people will do anything—go anywhere—to avoid it. Admit it: You've driven around the block rather than attempt to parallel park in a tight spot.
Wouldn't it be great if you could put on your directional, pull over, and let your car worry about avoiding the curb and other cars while easing you in? That's exactly what QinetiQ thinks. The British technology provider has developed 3D cameras that integrate into your car's four main light clusters and relay the spatial sensing information needed for the vehicle to help you get your bearings—and maybe even park itself someday.
Unlike existing straight-line-style bumper sensors that can miss especially low or thin objects, the QinetiQ 3D cameras use dispersed light to effectively produce a 360° matrix around the vehicle. In addition to providing better coverage and more accurate obstacle information when maneuvering at low speeds, the camera's matrix can also help with lane detection when a vehicle is driving and even illuminate blind spots.
The cameras are able to capture data from more than 1000 points on an object with a range accuracy of 0.25 mm, across a wide field of view and with a working range of between 200 mm and 2 m. These compact, low-power 3D cameras can operate in real time, processing the data locally and sending only a driver warning to the dashboard.
"Ultimately," says John Bannister, QinetiQ's optical technologies business manager, "QinetiQ's cameras could be integrated with other onboard systems and enable a vehicle to park itself or get out of tight parking spots."
The 3D cameras should cost less than $50 apiece once in production, and QinetiQ is working with several Tier 1 and OEM suppliers to integrate the cameras into future vehicles designs for the mass market—not just luxury vehicles. So soon both your alloy wheels and composite hub caps will be safe from "curb bites."