2014 BMW i3 Hatchback: Self-Parking Revisited (With Video)
February 3, 2015
When I last wrote about the self-parking feature in our long term 2014 BMW i3 I only included a photo. A reader named saxdogg said it was "criminal" not to post a video. And some other readers posted their own videos of the i3 parking itself. So, in an effort to atone for my deficiencies we offer this video that shows the i3 parking in three different situations: on a busy street, in a tight space, and parking on the left side of the street.
While making the video I had a lot of chances to get to know this $1,000 parking assistant feature. Here are a few thoughts on the limitations and benefits of this amazing system.
First of all, I stand by my statement that the system is not intuitive. You couldn't just jump in the car and expect to push a button and let the car park itself. You really have to know how to use it, what to expect and understand its limitations.
First, a recap on how BMW's system self-parking system works.
When you want to parallel park, you press and release the park assistant button. Driving forward at speeds of less than 22 mph, the radar sensors will search for a space big enough for the car plus four feet. When it finds an appropriate sized space it will display a "P" on the monitor. You then stop, put on the turn signal (if it isn't already on) and press and hold the park assistant button. The car will park itself (automatically switching between reverse and drive) and control both the accelerator and brake pedals. When it's done, it shifts into park.
The first thing to know is that the car doesn't find a space and display a P until you are well past the parking space. If you are in heavy traffic, you now find yourself with a stack of cars behind you blocking your ability to back into the open space.
The solution to this is pretty simple. Instead of relying on the system to find the space, you have to find the space yourself, stop just past it, and then wait for the system to catch up with you, displaying a "P" to show that the space is big enough.
Another problem is that in heavy traffic you find yourself backing up toward cars that are driving toward you. While you feel that the car is in complete control, you still have to monitor traffic. While this might seem obvious to people reading this, I guarantee you that in real-world conditions you find yourself wondering what the car will and won't do. To stop and let traffic pass, you have to take your finger off the parking assistant button, let congestion clear and then begin the process again.
Another big revelation for me is that the manual admits that while self-parking, the car may hit the curb. In fact, this occurred several times, including once when it hit the curb at a very oblique angle and traveled more than a foot, scuffing the side of the tire (but not scratching the wheels). In another situation, the car got halfway into a space and then disconnected, as if throwing up its hands in surrender.
Finally, I have to say that giving up complete control of the car, even for a short time, requires a real leap of faith. Earlier, while using the system with my wife in the car, she flinched and gasped as the nose of the i3 swung into the space, missing the car in front only by inches. For her, and for many others, the stress of being out-of-control might far outweigh the convenience of its service.
After multiple experiments with the parking assistant, I feel more comfortable with the system and will, if the need arises, use it. However, I still feel that using the feature requires understanding and practice before it can be used with confidence.
Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 2,156 miles