Toyota used the Prius as the platform for what's become the most successful automotive hybrid system in the world, but that was just the beginning. The 2007 Prius, on display at the 2006 Geneva Auto Show, features a bit of technology designed to handle many a driver's worst fear: parallel parking. Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA) uses cameras and sensors to examine a parking space and steer the
into it. According to Toyota's literature, the driver identifies a parking spot and kicks the IPA into gear. While the IPA steers the car, the driver controls the speed with the brake pedal, which is a wise idea because it keeps liability in the hands--or the foot--of the driver. In the demo, the rearview camera had a complex series of colored lines overlaying the picture, which identified the track of the vehicle, the obstacles, and the parking spot. Toyota says the system can also be used for simple back-in parking. The demo used parking spaces with clearly painted white lines, but real-world parking spaces are rarely that well defined. It will be interesting to see how the IPA handles curbs of differing heights, faded or nonexistent parking space lines, other random lines painted in the street, and those often-too-short city spots that take 35 separate maneuvers and a little bumper tapping to fit in. For those who aren't ready to give up that kind of car control, the IPA can be turned off and its camera used to aid in old-fashioned manual parking.