My Smart Car Is Making Me a Stupid Parker

I recently bought a new vehicle (a VW Alltrack), and it came with all sorts of high tech bells and whistles. Adaptive cruise control has made my #RoadWarrior lifestyle a whole lot easier, but I’m not sure how sold I am on the park pilot system.

The basic gist of park pilot is fairly simple… when the car senses that I’m parking (and it’s usually pretty on the nose about that), it activates a bunch of sensors, and then it starts beeping at me when it thinks I’m getting too close to something. The beeping gets more and more persistent, the closer I get.

My problem? My car yells at me like I’m about to smash into the car behind me when I’m parallel parking… and then I get out and they’re still about 6-8 feet away.

(It’s not unlike this scene from Austin Powers.)

Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to see/hear if there is something (or, heaven forbid, someone) I’m about to smash into. But my car is so overly sensitive, I end up leaving way too much space between me and other cars just to make the damn beeping stop.

It’s a metaphor for the current state of technology, really.

We live in an amazing time, with technological innovations coming at us left and right. The cheater wagon I replaced wasn’t that old, and my Alltrack just blows it out of the water. Technology just gets better and better.

But technology can still be a fairly blunt tool. Sometimes, it’s technical, but sometimes it’s societal. I’m guessing VW’s lawyers have no intention of having my parking system calibrated towards letting me kiss the bumper of the car behind me.

(I almost feel bad for their lawyers, they’ve had a rough couple of years.)

The best way to make technology work for you, be it a parking system or a new DSP, is to know its limitations. For the most part, my car is probably a lot smarter than I am. But if I need to squeeze into the tightest of tight spots? I need to trust my instincts and let my car keep beeping at me.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that, in the long run, relying on technology will dull our instincts. My parking sensors and backup camera are an add-on to how I park, but they don’t replace me knowing when to cut the wheel the other way.

Eventually, manufacturers will come out with cars that can park better than I could dream of parking. Hell, we’re not that far from cars that can drive better than any of us. But, until then, I’m going to steadfastly maintain my parking skills. Even if I have to put up with some beeping.

Image via Marcus Hansson