Of big cars and small parking spaces

Of big cars and small parking spaces

The FINANCIAL -- Accidents when parking are nothing unusual. Around 40 percent of vehicle accidents incurring physical loss or damage occur during parking or maneuvering. The Allianz Center for Technology (Allianz Zentrum für Technik, AZT), Continental AG, Munich University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule München) and Munich's Technical University (Technische Universität) have been investigating the reasons behind this as part of a research project. Dr. Christoph Lauterwasser, Managing Director of the Allianz Center for Technology in Munich's Ismaning, talks about big cars, small parking spaces, and what we can do to avoid chipping the paintwork.

Accidents during parking are up by almost a third on ten years ago - have we forgotten how to drive?

Dr. Lauterwasser: No, I don't think it's got anything to do with drivers not having the right skills! Over the years, cars have got steadily bigger, but parking spaces haven't kept up. And the constant influx of people moving to the cities isn't making parking any easier: more and more cars have to fight for limited space in urban areas. These leads to more accidents during parking and maneuvering. And changes in vehicle geometry are also to blame - smaller rear windows, in particular, restrict the driver's field of vision.

Why do so many more accidents happen when driving out of a parking spot than when driving into a spot?

That's an interesting question. My own personal theory is that people are often in more of a hurry when they're maneuvering out of a spot, for example, they're put under pressure by cars waiting to park there. And, in my experience, lots of drivers try to avoid reverse parking and park facing forwards if they can. When you have to reverse out of a parking space it's easy to miscalculate how much room you have. My advice is to take your time when driving out of a parking spot!

Can technology help prevent these accidents in the future?

This is an area we're examining in great detail. Today's parking assistance systems with warning functions are often not good enough. Some systems can miss objects to the side of the vehicle, and, even if the system is triggered and warns the driver, drivers sometimes react too late.

Warning the driver is often not enough: systems need to have the ability to get actively involved, and even put the brakes on themselves if necessary. Essentially, parking assistance systems need to become more intelligent so that they can automatically minimize any damage. The Allianz Center for Technology is actively tracking the development of systems like these, with the help of the expertise we've gleaned from accident research.