Steer brings convenience of autonomous parking to the aftermarket

Another way to upgrade cars missing advanced driver assistance systems

The aftermarket has been releasing more refined tech that installs modern driver convenience features into older cars. There's Bmmpr, the $350 doohickey that plugs into an OBD port and notifies an owner if their parked car has been hit. There's Lanmodo, the $500 night vision system that provides color and infrared images when one's commute involves seriously dark territory. Now there's Steer, which the company says can upgrade vehicles built since 2012 with Level 4 autonomous parking and summoning capability. The price is higher and the process more involved than the other two examples, the promise being a bigger payoff — a Valet Mode that enables the car to drop off its occupants, find an empty spot, and wait for a retrieval call.   

Steer says cars built since 2012 usually contain the necessary advanced driver assistance systems to enable its technology. Installation of Steer's computing module and sensor box starts at $1,200, the sensor box also housing a camera that can provide the necessary imaging. The software integrates information coming from the camera and the vehicle's standard sensor suite to "put the car to bed."   

After that, basic parking operations are free. For public street parking, Steer can remotely pull a vehicle into and out of perpendicular and slanted spots, or your home garage, starting and shutting down remotely. At home, with a compatible garage door opener, Steer can open and close the garage door automatically On private streets, the sensors' self-mapping mode can learn the road and be taught where and how to park. Parallel parking is missing for now.

The features most drivers would want — where Steer finds a spot on its own in a public parking lot or parking garage — require subscribing to the Steer network for $30 per month. That cost bundles additional conveniences, though, like locating your car, permitting remote access, and family-friendly tech like parental monitoring. As a turnkey service, Valet Mode is limited to the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., area where Steer is headquartered at the moment. However, if a driver's willing to put in a little time, Steer says its sensors can map a new lot. For those jobs where the walking time from the parking space to the office takes up a noticeable part of the total commute, Steer could be worth it anywhere.

The company has been working with two Tier 1 suppliers, one of them Visteon, and CEO Anuja Sonalker said Steer is talking to three automakers about getting the product built in during assembly or as a dealer-installed option.

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