By on July 26, 2010

No, this has nothing to do with a Hollywood blockbuster… we think the new Avante/Elantra could be the first self-parking mass-market compact car. Take a closer look at the now infamous video clip of men in suits trying to park the next-generation Hyundai Avante. The first 20 seconds clearly show the driver’s hands on the steering wheel. After that however, the audience never gets a clear view of the cockpit. Someone is either obstructing the camera or the scene cuts away. When we do happen to catch a glimpse of the steering wheel (at 00:25 for example), it appears to move on its own. Granted, the driver could be grasping the wheel at the six o’clock position, out of view of the camera, but I think there’s something more to the situation than that.

When I first saw the video, I immediately had three questions. First, how can it be that these (presumably) automobile executives can’t parallel park to save their lives? Surely anyone at any level of the car business should be able to parallel park blindfolded. I’m sure Maximum Lutz could. Maybe he should come out of retirement and have a CTS-V parallel park challenge. He might actually win that one.

Second, if these suits can’t park, then why was the parking space made so small? It looks to be just a few inches larger than the car itself. Surely the people who staged the event would want to stroke the egos of their bosses and make a parking spot big enough for an Equus. This point is especially true given that the video looks to be shot in Korea where the concept of “saving face”, especially for high-level executives, is alive and well.

Third, what’s so special about a bunch of the top brass trying to parallel park the company’s newest offering anyway? Why are so many people gathered to watch something as mundane as parking? When the big bosses are invited to drive the car, it’s usually to showcase the latest and greatest technology, not to have them do their best parking valet impressions. I can’t imagine Bob Lutz leaving his plush air-conditioned office to go parallel park a Cruze unless there was a damned-good reason to do so.

The answer to all these questions, at least as these three images suggest, is that the car in the video was parking itself!

The first image clearly shows a button marked with a steering wheel icon, the word “auto”, and the letter “P”. On its own, this picture could just imply an automatic electronic parking brake. However, the second and third pictures suggest more. The second image shows a diagram of a vehicle using front-mounted sensors to identify a parking space and then back into it. The third image shows sensors on the front bumper of new Avante. The Korean text on the second image reads as follows:

Panel 1: Ultrasonic sensors detect an empty parking space

Panel 2: The car parks itself when drivers remove their hands from the wheel

A recent Korean television advertisement from Hyundai’s parts manufacturing affiliate, Hyundai Mobis adds to my Avante Autobot theory. The ad shows a driver having difficulty trying to parallel park her car. “Autobots, roll out!” The car then proceeds to measure the parking space using front-mounted sensors (much like in the second and third images above) and then park itself.

The 15-second ad is available here. The self-parking fun starts at 00:09. The Korean voice-over roughly translates to:

Parking is not something for people to know, it is something for cars to do.

The Korean text on the screen during the self-parking reads:

Researching an easy and convenient automated parking assistance system.

So what do you think? Is the new Avante a self-parking Autobot or is this all the work of a dastardly Decepticon? Have your say in the comments.

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20 Comments on “Is Hyundai’s New Avante (Elantra) An Autobot?...”

  • avatar

    Why would anyone need an automatic parking vehicle?

    Are people that incompetent this days?

    • 0 avatar


    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think that people are so incompetent these days that they are no longer able to park their cars. It’s just that if you can’t sell your car on its merits, gadgets become the prime selling point to consider. Just ask Nissan (parking assist on the EX35) or Acura.

    • 0 avatar

      I know that I speak for myself on this, but more gadgets = more cost and more difficult/specialised repairs… which means the stealership has more chances to rape me.

      And that is no no.

      So I’m in the minority that likes the car on its merits.

      @confused3894894983782: I guessed so :(

    • 0 avatar

      Why would anyone need an electric starter? Or a throttle instead of a choke? Or turn signals?

      I know that I speak for myself on this, but more gadgets = more cost and more difficult/specialised repairs…

      I understand where you’re coming from, but the flip side is that electronics allow cars that need repairs far less frequently. I’m personally glad to see that little slice of hell known as a carburetor disappear. I’m sure there’s few tears shed for the death of the 3000-mile tune-up. It’s similarly nice to not have to deal with casual predetonation anymore.

      Take the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, which, despite being fairly complex, are also two of the most reliable vehicles on the road. Part of the reason for that is that (especially in the Prius’ case) the electronics manage the car to such a degree that it lives a very unstressed life.

    • 0 avatar

      Why would anyone need an automatic parking vehicle?

      Not sure. If it doesn’t at least save me time, then it’s unnecessary complexity. I’ve seen nothing to indicate that any car can parallel park as fast as I can do it manually.

  • avatar

    Okay, enough with the “drivers are incompetent, kids these days” schtick. Here is the a few legit reasons beyond just marketing (also legit):

    a) More cars on the road, no more space (less in some cases, what with cars getting gradually bigger, many local gov’ts wanting to reclaim areas from parking etc. = tighter parking spaces. Cars are packed more densely then in the 70s.

    b)Everything costs money. We don’t have thick chrome bumpers anymore, we don’t have plain black plastic. We have fancy, flamed, shiny metal and plastic that costs a fortune to repair should it get scratched, bumped, dented etc. We have mirrors that costs hundreds of dollars (heated, BLIS, powered, integrated signal etc.). Repairs simply cost a lot, and most parking lot bumps consist of people not looking or not seeing. Technology can prevent this partially.

    c) Cars these days are a lot harder to park. I remember my perfectly rectangle 2001 Jetta, easy as pie to park. Flat fenders, flat rear, no raising beltline. My family’s 1993 Accord was even better. Most cars (the Avante included) are now ridiculously curvy, overstyled things with pretty much vertical beltlines where you basically cannot see out the back/side in any serviceable way. My 05 Mazda 3 Sport is a good example: horrible sight-lines, cannot see anything from 4 through ’till 6 and repeat on the other side. Fenders curvy, flaring etc. Its only saviour is its size. Basically, we’ve designed cars that inhibit our sense of space, so tech becomes the next best solution.

    The whole “people are incompetent” is just silly. Senses are the same, there are even more cars packed even more closely together. Its harder and harder to get your license and driver education is becoming pretty standard for beginners, so its not people simply not being able to do something the previous generation could.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, this doesn’t look like a win-win situation to me. First, manufacturers save money in development costs by not engineering their cars better, ie with a better outward visibility, tighter turn radius, more maneuverability, etc. Instead – you’re right – most cars (the Avante included) are now ridiculously curvy, which makes them more attractive and, accordingly, more profitable. Second – you’re right again – even small repairs cost a lot as exterior components become more expensive. Again, more profits go to the manufacturer. And now, to safeguard consumers against paying a lot of money in costly repairs, manufacturers offer expensive gadgets, which, in turn, will make cars even more expensive to repair… It’s like a catch-22 in reverse

    • 0 avatar

      You also forgot “Hey, where’s the front or rear bumper on this car actually located?” Rear view backup cameras can really help in the back, but nobody’s got a front bumper camera. And all vehicles give you a different feel about where the front bumper is. On some (like the Gen3 Prius that a friend has), it feels like you’re parking with the front of the car inside the building. In others, you feel like you’ve got another 3 feet, and then *crunch*, you’ve hit something.

      Plus, there are some people who are so bad at parking, I want to run out of the building when I see them pull into the lot so I can shoo them away from my car. It doesn’t help that zoning requires so many spots on valuable land, so parking spaces are getting smaller and smaller. We used to joke at college that they could put a new 10,000 s.f. building in a parking lot, but only lose 10 spaces because they restripe all the other ones 6″ smaller.

    • 0 avatar

      Totally agree. And don’t forget cars are getting wider too (a trick to not making them any bigger i.e. longer). The 3 drives really widely, and is very wide, so I never really am comfortable with where my rubber is when parallel parking. Add that to the fact that both the rubber (low profile) and the rims (17s, small & cheap by today’s standards) are expensive if damaged and even a run into a curb can cost you big time in bent or scuffed rims.

  • avatar

    As long as it isn’t a ‘standard’ feature, I really won’t mind not paying for it. If someone wants to pay $ for a feature which compensates for their utter inability to drive, so be it. Just don’t make everyone pay for it.

  • avatar

    The Ford Escape can self parallel park if you buy that option. When I first heard about it, I thought “Cool, I’m not good at parallel parking, that would be useful”. Then I realized that I’m not good at parallel parking because I never have to do it, and I don’t really need to buy an extra option for something I never do.

    Still, for those who do often parallel park, systems like this are handy, as they have visibility the driver doesn’t, and as at least is the case with the Ford system, can get a car into a tighter spot, closer to the curb, faster than a human driver car.

  • avatar

    There’s more to this than just a parking assist option. I saw a press release for this car and there were other luxury/premium options available as well. The only one I can remember off of the top of my head is the rear heated seats.

    What their strategy might be is to offer most if not all of their competitors luxury brand features across most of the Hyundai line. If that were to happen, the competition would have to offer all of their premium features on their value brands as well in order to go head to head with Hyundai on the comparison chart.

    At that point, their would be almost no differences between the value brands vs. the luxury brands. It would be a lot tougher for Lexus, Infinity, and Acura etc. to survive.

    It’s just a theory. Time will tell.

    • 0 avatar

      If that is Hyundai’s plan, it’s not a bad one. I’ve thought for a while that an automaker should just go out and make nav systems standard across the line. It wouldn’t cost that much extra to build, LCDs are cheap and you don’t need much computing power to run a nav system, but it would be a great piece of marketing material.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    One thing to remember is that some of these electronic gizmos don’t really cost all *that* much any more.

    The car already has electric power steering in the interest of saving that bit of fuel consumption from otherwise having to drive a hydraulic pump. All it needs is to be told what to do.

    The car already has ABS which is capable of actuating brakes, thanks to US gov’t requirements that all cars be stability-control equipped by 2012, which de-facto requires ABS since it’s the same hardware.

    The car already has electronic throttle control thanks to tight emission standards.

    OK, so it would need several cameras (cheap these days) and a button on the dash (cheap) and a bunch of programming and computer power. The computing power is cheap. The programming is where the real trickery is, but it only needs to be done once. Flashing the same program into millions of vehicle ECU’s is dirt cheap.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Visibility out of modern vehicles is bad and getting worse. Up until last year my daughter’s vehicle was an old Volvo 240 wagon. It is amazing how great the visibility is in a 240 wagon both for seeing exactly what is around you and for knowing where the ends and corners of the car are. Parking that thing was a snap. Parking my ’06 TSX is, by comparison, a real pain in the neck.

    I can’t think of any modern vehicle wherein the driver can actually tell where the front and rear bumpers are from the drivers seat. As others have said, parking assist is useful in part because the visual ergonomics of modern vehicles are so horrible.

  • avatar

    hard to say but at first glance it does resemble a honda civic and paradoxically has the four wheel parking option that was available on the accord some years ago……….Im gonna go with autobot

  • avatar

    I have no doubt this is an automatic parking system. Still, won’t be the first mass-market offer of such a system…

    The feature for automatic parallel parking has been available on the european Touran since 2007, on the Golf since 2008 and on the Passat (don’t know since when).
    The function of parking in a space vertical to the street has been added with the upgraded Touran recently and will be available on the coming Sharan. Again, nothing new in mass-market cars.

    IIRC the VW System was heavily developed with (by?) Valeo, so it might actually be the same one as used by Hyundai. The way it supposedly works seems quite similar, as does the used button… ;)

  • avatar

    can i ask why Hyundai are using Jaguar XJs as test vehicles???

    That is an XJ with the 4ws system?

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