- Published: Friday, 06 June 2014 18:39
Just how good is Hyundai's Smart Parking Assist System? We pit ourselves against a Miss Singapore Universe beauty queen to find out...
What is Smart Parking Assist?
Smart Parking Assist is Hyundai's term for its parking assistance system, which essentially takes the guesswork out of parallel parking.
The system uses a series of ultrasonic sensors located around the car to detect a suitable parking space, and thereafter is capable of steering the car into the space automatically, with the driver only needing to control the pedals to stop the car when necessary.
The feature is as easy to use as pushing a button, literally. As you approach a line of parallel-parked cars, hit the Smart Parking Assist button located on the centre console. The system will then activate, and begin to scan for a suitable parking space in which the car can fit into.
Once a space has been found, the system will alert the driver and instruct him to put the car in reverse. As soon as that's done, the car will gently steer itself into the space, using the car's various sensors and reverse camera to gauge and detect the appropriate points to steer. Should it be necessary, the car will inform the driver when to put the car into Drive or Reverse to adjust accordingly.
Is Smart Parking Assist easy to use?
While theoretically, features such as the Smart Parking Assist system are meant to make driving tasks easier for drivers, in reality many people find themselves intimidated by such technology. This could boil down to the fact that some systems are a bit complicated to use and navigate, and it's not always clear what is required on the part of the driver to do.
To see whether Hyundai's Smart Parking Assist passes the simplicity test, we put it in the hands of a relative novice driver. Meet Shi Lim, Miss Singapore Universe 2013, and by her own admission, someone who isn't particularly confident with parallel parking, especially such a large car as the Santa Fe SUV we have procured for this test.
To make things even more interesting, we're going to pit her against one of us, in the ultimate "Man vs. Machine, Battle of the Sexes" style challenge. Unfortunately, yours truly drew the short straw in the office, and it would be me to take on the mantle and defend the men's honour in the Kingdom of Parallel Parking.
The challenge will go like this: each of us will get two bites of the cherry, with Shi to do her attempts with the Smart Parking Assist System, and myself to do it without. Just as a control test, each of us will also do one try the other way round (hers without and mine with). Fastest time wins.
Given her relative inexperience, I'd thought it'd be fair to give Shi a few practice runs first. She was naturally apprehensive, but the fact that she felt confident enough to take me on after a just a couple of tries illustrated how easy to understand the system was. "It's quite easy actually," she remarks, "Just press a button and control the pedals accordingly."
So here we go then. Shi pulled up to begin her first attempt, feeling rather cautious and tentative. We decided to let her go first so that she could build up confidence, and not be panicky and demoralised when I set too high a bar for her to beat. Rather she set the target and I attempt to smash it, than the other way around.
Her first try took a fairly leisurely 51.5 seconds, which we reckoned was okay for an amateur. But then her second try was proof that, with enough practice, one can easily master the art of parallel parking with the Smart Parking Assist system, at least to a reasonable extent. Shi posted a pretty impressive time of 39.8 seconds on the second attempt, not bad at all.
My turn. Now, I was slightly torn between wanting to make Shi look good (not that she doesn't already), or to keep up the men's pride. After a slight deliberation, I decided on the latter, and therefore didn't exactly show mercy in my challenge attempts. I was in this to win, and darn it I'd better.
I have the benefit of many more years driving experience of course, but parallel parking is always tricky. Still, my first attempt at parking the Santa Fe came in at a rather decent 31.5 seconds, so unfortunately for Shi, I had already beaten her record. On my second go, I was even faster, clocking in at 29.3 seconds even with adjustments to straighten. So much for technology then.
(Just for the record, I achieved a time of 44.4 seconds using the Smart Parking Assist function. Unfortunately, Shi bungled her attempt at parking the car herself, so we would disregard her time for that.)
While our little test showed that experience still wins out at the end of the day, the fact that someone with barely a few months of driving experience can parallel park a sizeable SUV like the Santa Fe in almost as much time as a pro proves that such technology does work. If anything, they serve to help those who are slightly less confident in getting cars into tight spots, and that can only be of benefit to new drivers. So long as they understand that features such as Smart Parking Assist are not a complete replacement for drivers, but are merely assistance systems, then there's no reason to fear its existence.