But even the Tesla car can't park itself. Explanation of how the Advanced Parking Guidance System works, information on how this thing rips CDs, and other e-goodies, after the jump.
UPDATE: The video had some hiccups. Fixed.
Here's how it works.
1. You drive past a parking spot at 12mph or less. The four rear and six front sonar sensors detect the cars, and the gap between them.
2. Putting the car into reverse activates the wide-angle backup camera. There's a little button on the bottom of the screen that looks like a car parking. Hit it. If the spot is more than 6.5 feet longer than the car itself, the car enters Advanced Parking Guidance System mode. This is where the magic happens.
3. Crawl backwards, keeping your foot on the brake. If you touch the gas, or the wheel, the mode shuts itself off. Make sure to stay under 2.5mph, or it'll shut off, too. The wheel, as you can see from the video above, spins itself like its being ghost-driven. The sonar system is constantly measuring distance, beeping with more urgency as you get closer to obstacles.
4. When you're in the spot, the computer will announce that parking is complete.
Parking Mode buttons
Pretty sweet. Dan Neil, automotive journalist for the LA Times, and one of my favorite writers evar, sat next to me when I got the demo. He said he thought it was a pretty neat system. And that he could use it, since his better half was also the better parallel parker.
That's the best part of this car, but it's not the only awesome thing about it.
The car has adaptive cruise control, which uses millimeter-wave radar to slow you if a car in front of you hits the brakes. If the system detects a collision, it'll add pressure to the brakes to help stop time, and electronically tighten seatbelts.
It has the world's first 8-speed transmission, which uses fewer moving parts than the old 6-speed, in about the same space. I thought a car with 8 gears would flip through them like playing cards, but they were geared fairly tall to take advantage of the grunty 4.6-liter, 380-horsepower V8 engine. By the way, the pair gets the car up to 60mph in 5.4 seconds.
Like the Prius and other late-model Lexus cars, its key uses radio frequency to enable the door lock and starter buttons from a few feet away. Seems like a hack waiting to happen. But there's another drawback: One journalist took the car back to SF from Marin county, and left the key at the restaurant. The car keeps going, until you shut it off. Then, get ready to call AAA for a tow.
The headlights were inspired by crystal wine glasses. When they modeled a plastic assembly after the glasses, it didn't shine the way they wanted it to. So they took the headlamp, made it out of crystal, and studied the way it refracted light to get a similar look. The taillights are made from LEDs.
The car is so quiet, they had to redesign motors in the windows and locks because they were intrusive at first.
The backseat is not a bad place to be. The seats are adjustable in position, and feature heating, as well individual climate controls. There's a refrigerator big enough to hold a four cans of...soda. There are individual vanity mirrors, and a 9-inch motorized fold-down screen for the DVD player. The screen also can view and control (not sure if that's by remote or touch) the navigation, in case the driver is too busy speeding. There are rear sun shades that go down when the car is in reverse, and back up automatically when the car goes over 9mph.
The controls...for the back seat.
The tire pressure monitoring receiver sits on the roof, checking all 5 tires, yes, even the full-sized spare.
Finally, we reach the center console.
The nav system is the fifth generation of Toyota's system, centered around a 9-inch, 800x600 screen. The system uses XM to receive live traffic data, with icons for traffic jams, accidents, closed roads, construction, bad weather conditions, etc. But that data is only available in some areas. The system also has integrated Bluetooth for pairing with a cellphone, for speakerphone and addressbook access. The entire system can be controlled by voice commands.
The stereo's 7.1-channel surround, with some 19 speakers pushes 15 discreet channels. The total power? 450 watts. It sounded...okay. The optical drive in the dash plays back CDs, DVDs, and CDs burned with WMA and MP3s. What's cool is that the same HDD that the satellite nav system uses to store maps can also hold MP3s that the car rips from CDs. First car, to my knowledge, that can do this.
The Intuitive parking system is the more simple of the two parking aids. It uses the car's sonar to increase the tempo of beeps as you get closer to cars you're parking near.
How does it drive? It moves a bit like a hurricane-driven cloud, quickly running through its 8 gears to its electronically regulated 135MPH, or something close to that. The car moves, but without much confidence that the road won't fly out from under you in corners.
Lexus LS 460L [Jalopnik]