How Does My Car’s Parking Sensor Work?

Among the most useful features on many modern cars is the parking sensor. How does this equipment work to alert you of obstacles in your path? Well, that depends on the type of sensor you have, and there are two main types:

Ultrasonic Proximity Sensors

Ultrasonic parking sensors use high-frequency sound waves to detect objects. These sensors emit sound pulses (in a frequency undetectable by human ears, but your dog may go berserk) that reflect off of nearby objects. A receiver detects the reflected waves and calculates the distance from your vehicle to the object. This is actually the same technology bats use to locate objects because they have very poor eyesight.

Ultrasonic proximity sensors are usually connected to an alert/alarm system that warns the driver of nearby obstacles with sounds. Some more advanced ultrasonic sensors may translate to a pictograph on a vehicle’s infotainment screen that uses color blocks to represent the vehicle and possible obstacles.

Ultrasonic sensors do have a few drawbacks. The use of sound waves may not be able to accurately detect objects that are:

  • Flat and in a parallel plane with the road surface
  • Flat and angled away from the sensor
  • Small (like nails or other construction debris)
  • Soft and sound-dampening

So, as with any sensor system, you still need to use your eyes and common sense.

Electromagnetic Proximity Sensors

The other type of parking sensor is an electromagnetic sensor that detects nearby objects using electromagnetic frequencies. Because these sensors may detect a wide range of wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum, they can detect more types of objects without the same limitations of ultrasonic proximity sensors. Electromagnetic sensors can also be paired with a camera to help drivers better visualize their car and the space around it.

Both types of parking sensors are typically designed to engage when in reverse and/or operating at low speeds. They automatically stop sending information through the infotainment system when moving forward and/or at sufficient speed to minimize driver distraction.

All parking sensors are more examples of the increasing incorporation of advanced technology into the driving experience. Quanz Auto Body has the skills and advanced equipment required to diagnose and repair parking sensor system and other hi-tech systems in your vehicle.

If your parking system is unresponsive, do not leave yourself without the rear view. Contact us for an estimate and to schedule repairs.