Tech Gadgets: How Do Parking Sensors Work?

How Do Parking Sensors Work

Did you know that an estimated 5,000 injuries happen in non-traffic locations such as driveways and parking lots? These figures came from a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Surprisingly, this sheer number of injuries happens in non-traffic areas. Aside from injuries, an estimated one in five car crashes happens inside garages. Drivers can avoid these accidents if there are preventive systems in cars.

One of the current solutions to this problem is the installation of parking sensors on your cars. But what parking sensors are and how do they work? Also, do you need a parking sensor installed in your vehicle, and do the benefits outweigh the cost of buying one?

This article will provide a short overview of what parking sensors are, how they work, and if they are a working solution to avoid drivers crashing in parking lots. Also, this write-up will briefly show the benefits and the types of sensors available in the market.

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How Do Parking Sensors Work?

Parking sensors use ultrasonic waves to “see” their surroundings. These sensors are installed at the rear bumper to send off ultrasonic waves, which bounce off obstacles in the way of the vehicle as it parks. The computer inside these sensors works out the distance between the car and the obstacle and warns the driver.

What Are Parking Sensors?

Parking sensors are safety equipment installed in critical areas of a car, usually the forward or rear bumper, that will prompt the driver for any obstacles.

These sensors are safety tools that minimize the chance of your car crashing into another vehicle or a pedestrian.

The use of parking sensors helped reduce backing crashes by 28%. Rearview cameras reduced backing crashes by 5% and prevented 1 in 6 police-reported backing crashes.

Parking sensors today have two main ways of detecting an obstacle in the blind spot areas of a car. These sensors use ultrasonic and ultramagnetic means to detect obstacles, determine their distance and help prompt the driver to stop or maneuver.

Ultrasonic Sensors

Ultrasonic sensors use a high-frequency pulsating sound that bounces off near objects that may damage a car while doing parking maneuvers. The sound reflects off the object back into a sensor which computes the distance and alerts the driver to be cautious.

The parking sensor emits a sound or, in specific parking sensor models, has a color-coded pictograph informing the driver to stop if needed. However, ultrasonic parking sensors become ineffective when:

  • The objects are too thin to reflect sounds
  • Low objects
  • Objects that don’t reflect or absorb sound
  • Objects not outside the sight of the sensor.

Electromagnetic Sensors

Electromagnetic sensors use a magnetic field to detect objects that may pose a threat to a driver while parking. The sensor frequencies generate a magnetic field that detects any object within a certain distance from the device.

The electromagnetic field can’t detect if the object is stationary. However, it is suitable for detecting moving objects like other vehicles and pedestrians.

Electromagnetic sensors don’t suffer the same problems as ultrasonic waves as they are more sensitive to object detection. However, the downside to this type of sensor is its price. It is more expensive than other sensor types and may be an issue for people who can’t afford such a device.

Alternatives to Parking Sensors

Aside from parking sensors, other types of parking assist devices will minimize the risk of getting involved in a parking lot crash. Car manufacturers are slowly developing many systems to improve parking sensor technology. Here are two alternative parking systems you can get to cut down the risk of you having a parking crash.

360-Degree Cameras

A 360-degree camera, also known as a bird’s eye camera, helps drivers have a wide view of blind spots around their cars.  These cameras give the driver a view of the car’s surroundings, a full view of other cars, and obstacles in the area. The camera is connected to a dashboard, where the driver can see everything.

Another type of 360-degree camera is a surround-view camera, where the driver gets a drone-like view of the car and its surroundings. These cameras are connected to the car’s video system and can be accessed through a dashboard. With this camera, the driver can see the vehicle’s front, side, and rear.

Park Assist Systems

Parking assist systems evolve rapidly, especially with the unstoppable march of technology. The improvement of AI technology opens up new possibilities in developing parking systems that minimize human errors.

One development in parking assistance systems is automation. These systems will get the load off the drivers and make autonomous tasks to park their vehicles without any hassle.

Automated park assist systems help drivers steer the vehicle, take control of the parking maneuvers, and in some vehicles, totally drives the vehicle even without you inside.

This parking technology is slowly being installed in many car models, trucks, and SUVs. This technology is continually developing, but the tasks readily done by automated systems are already truly amazing.


1) Study: Parking lots present high risk of injury, death in children due to lack of attention

2) Park assist helps drivers avoid backing crashes

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