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The best technology to help you park

Ignoring any sexist jokes from decades gone by, parking can sometimes be a bit of a pain. Tight spaces, having to park close up against a wall, or simply because an ignoramus has taken up two spaces in a busy supermarket car park, it can often be a right pain finding a safe place to park while still having room to get out of the car yourself.

Fortunately now, though, there are parking guides available, and you don't have to be driving a top of the range vehicle to benefit. Whether you're driving a high end sports car or a banged up Vauxhall Nova, you can benefit from parking sensors.

Electromagnetic parking sensors

Numerous car manufacturers, such as Audi and Fiat, use electromagnetic parking sensors on their vehicles, which work by creating an electromagnetic field around the vehicle, with a warning sound being triggered every time an object enters that field.

If you're having these fitted in the factory when your car is being built then you're looking at a bill of around £300. But they start from around £70 if they're being fitted afterwards. The good news is that they are fine to be used with cycle racks and tow bars, and there's also no need for a drill as they can be mounted to the inside of the vehicle's bumper. The bad news though is that they only work once the car is moving, which can potentially lead to an accident – although the chances of that are fairly slim. 

Ultrasonic parking sensors

Ultrasonic parking sensors can come in even cheaper than their electromagnetic counterparts, at £30 for those being fitted once the car has been built. Car manufacturers themselves will charge anything from around £300 up.

Ultrasonic sensors work by bouncing sound waves off objects around the car, and sending a beep judged on the echo time to determine how close they are. While unlike electromagnetic sensors they're not appropriate for use with tow bars, they do work when the car is stationary – although small objects can also pick up the sensor, such as the curb, or even a slight slope.


Unsurprisingly factory installed sensors are the preference of most drivers, but this is reflected in their cost and for many drivers they remain a wish.  And no, while I'm not about to tell you that there's a £2.99app that can do the job of a £300 sensor, there are apps that can help in one way – by finding you a better space. Westminster Council, for example, has worked with the ParkRight app to help drivers entering Westminster to find a spot that is free which, provided others have parked considerately – would mean there is no need for parking sensors anyway.

While the 'add-on' parking sensors, whether of the electromagnetic or ultrasonic variety, are not as good as the built-in type, they are still a sound investment for those with older cars or who have trouble parking occasionally. 

Driving Tips  19/08/2014 16:49:26

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