BMW Parking Assistant and Park Assistant Plus explained
What is BMW’s Parking Assistant? We explain how the system works and whether it’s worth adding as an option
Cars with parking assistance systems have been around for the best part of 20 years but taking your hands off the steering wheel while your car tucks itself neatly into a parking space still feels unnatural to many drivers.
While the Toyota Prius was the first production model to offer self-parking all the way back in 2003, it was only for the Japanese market and the tech took quite a while to reach the mainstream. Nowadays, you can get self-parking systems for superminis and hatchbacks, with even the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Astra getting park-assist systems.
What is BMW Parking Assistant?
BMW drivers have had longer to get used to the idea than most, as the German manufacturer first introduced its ‘Parking Assistant’ technology on the BMW 3 Series in 2012. Since then, the German company’s active park assist tech has been developed and improved as it has been introduced across the range. The system as it is now uses sensors to identify a parking space large enough and can then take total control in order to park the car in the space by itself at the press of a button.
Do all BMWs have Parking Assistant?
BMW Parking Assistant (or BMW ‘Park Assist’ as it’s often known) is now available as optional or standard equipment on all BMW models from the humble 1 Series to the flagship X7 SUV. It’s only included as standard on more expensive models. That means BMW offers the majority of its new cars with Parking Assistant as an optional extra, often as part of a more expensive upgrade package that also includes other active driver assistance and safety systems.
How does Parking Assistant work?
Once you’ve pressed the button to activate the system, at speeds below 20mph BMW Parking Assistant will automatically scan both sides of the road for suitably sized spaces. It measures gaps using ultrasonic sensors mounted in the wing mirrors, and when you’ve driven past a space that’s big enough for the car to fit in, an alert shows on the iDrive screen.
You then need to stop the car, activate the indicator, and press and hold the Parking Assistant button. When you take your hands off the steering wheel and release the footbrake, your BMW will take over steering, gears, acceleration and braking in order to reverse you into the chosen space and straighten up the vehicle. It uses the front and rear Parking Distance Control sensors to place itself in the middle of the space. When the parking manoeuvre is complete, the system puts the car’s gearbox into ‘park’.
Taking your finger off the button at any point during the operation will cancel the manoeuvre and, although the BMW’s parking sensors should be alert to most dangers, it’s essential that the driver pays attention in the same way they would if they were parking the car without help.
When it comes to leaving your parking space, activating Parking Assistant will manoeuvre the car to the point where you can drive out of the space with no further steering input required. Crucially it won’t drive you out into the road by itself and, again, drivers must pay as close attention to the surroundings and traffic as they would at any other time.
Some BMW models have an optional Remote Parking Assistant feature, which allows you to get out of the car once a space has been identified and put your car into tight parking spaces using the smart key-fob.
What is BMW Parking Assistant Plus?
The difference between BMW Parking Assistant Plus and the regular Parking Assistant is that Park Assist Plus provides improved visualisation of your parking manoeuvres thanks to a system of additional cameras. The actual functions and method of operation are unchanged but you get a better view of what’s happening around you, which improves safety and confidence in the system.
The cameras are also used to extend the driver’s view when approaching junctions and visually restricted exits, so are not used exclusively for Park Assist Plus. That’s why BMW Parking Assistant Plus is generally supplied as part of a larger Technology Plus Pack with various driver assistance features.
Is Parking Assistant worth it?
You can pay less than £1,000 for Parking Assistant on its own on a cheaper BMW such as the 1 Series, which will probably seem like a bit of a bargain once you get into the habit of using it. Parking Assistance Plus can set you back several thousand pounds as part of a Technology Plus Pack on more expensive models, and the Remote Parking Assistance option is a further £2,500 on compatible cars. If you’re not the most confident driver when it comes to parking, then it could save you the hassle and expense of parking dents and scrapes - and at the very least make life much more relaxing.
As you're interested in BMW technology, why not take a look at BMW iDrive explained: what is it and how does it work?