Parallel parking is one of Americans' least favorite driving chores. Nearly a third of American drivers admitted in a 2009 Harris Interactive poll that they try to avoid parallel parking whenever possible.
A number of automakers, including Ford and Audi, have responded by offering optional active parking assist systems. These systems use sensors to measure and identify spaces that are big enough for the car to safely fit into. Once a driver selects a space they want, they put the car in park, allowing the car to take control of the wheel and back the car into the spot.
Like active cruise control, this feature is more of a convenience feature than a safety feature, with most systems requiring drivers to keep control over the gas and braking while the car steers, Carlson says.
That little bit of control, coupled with the low speeds involved, may explain why car buyers are gravitating to a feature that can seem eerie at first, he says.
"Because it is at low speeds, I think it tends to be a little bit less of a shock to some people to let their car do this," Carlson says. "It is one of the first baby steps where you are seeing consumers kind of relinquish control."