Park Assist Technology for Your Volkswagen Van: Better Than a Stunt Driver?

Volkswagen offers Park Assist on some of its commercial vehicles, a system that guides a large van into a small parking space. As good as the technology is, can it beat a stunt driver? There’s only one way to find out…

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles enlisted the help of professional stunt driver, and parking world record holder, Alastair Moffatt, to put it to the test.

A third of van drivers find small parking spaces their biggest annoyance. Finding a suitably sized parking space for vans is more than just a frustration though, with UK van drivers being fined a total of £24 million a year for parking incorrectly.

Volkswagen’s Park Assist technology aims to reduce stress and enable drivers to easily and safely park in a designated space. It uses ultrasonic sensors in the front bumper which scan the space to see whether it is big enough. After reverse gear has been selected, the technology then puts the van into the best starting position and steers automatically into the space. The driver does not need to steer at any point but remains in control of the vehicle working the accelerator, brake and clutch.

Volkswagen Park Assist works more delicately than Alastair's efforts.

To see if Park Assist can really park perfectly every time, Moffatt pitted more than 25 years of experience against the technology in the ultimate van parking challenge.

Both Alastair and Park Assist were tasked with completing a parallel park within a space of 7.5-metres – just a little larger than the 5.9-metre length of the Volkswagen Crafter – with an added twist that Alastair would be completing his manoeuvre as a handbrake turn. The result was impressive with both successfully mastering the Art of Parking, although Park Assist was certainly the more relaxing option.

“Our Working With You brand promise is designed to help Volkswagen customers in all aspects of owning a van and part of that is offering class-leading technologies such as Park Assist,” explains Sarah Cox, head of marketing at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. “We want to help our customers park their vans in the safest and most accurate way so that they can avoid parking fines and reduce stress. The Park Assist technology was a perfect match for Alastair, and a slightly less hair-raising manoeuvre!”

“I was really impressed with how nimble the Volkswagen Crafter proved to be – handbrake turning such a big vehicle isn’t always easy,” added Alastair Moffatt. “I’ve spent years mastering the art of parking but taking on Park Assist was still a real challenge because it was 100 per cent accurate every time. I really had to be on the top of my game to match it.”

Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.