We have come a long way ahead in terms of technology and what better than automobiles to check it. From a 4 wheeled iron body box which used to carry a person from place A to B, to an ultra-luxury machine that not only is a status icon, but helps human in many ways. And we are passing through a period where automated driving is the talking point.
Every manufacturer, be it big house or individual, is working towards making automated driving an everyday affair. But don't be fooled by the advertisements from manufacturers fro last 10 years. We all know how Google initiated the propaganda to market their Google car and now Audi, BMW and Mercdedes are following footstep of Google.
Infact, the whole process of automation started some 60 years ago when some individual designers were trying to make driving easy and so did every aspect related to driving. One such serious pain was parking. As the cars were becoming more of a necessity than the luxury, our roads were getting congested and parking spaces were getting narrower.
There was a huge cry for developing some technology that could ease the pain of parking and this is where Brooks Walker came in. The wizard of Walter was such that he was patenting series of technologies for making parking easier. Somewhere around 1953, Walker used a standard Packard Cavalier sedan and made it one of the most famous Packards ever.
What Walker did was took this particular Packard to his Walker Research Centre in California and fitted it with a series of hydraulic pumps and lines, gears, and continental spare tire. And what came out as a result was something very unique - a system that eases the parking procedure for car owners, which is the only working prototype car in the world.
But how does the car system actually work, let us explain in steps-
1. Flip the three dash-mounted button to engage the self-parking feature
2. A continental tyre will lower itself with the help of hydraulic pumps until the car’s rear wheels get off the ground
3. When the car is in the air, shift the car into gear so the right rear tyre spun
4. The spinning tyre will in-turn spin a wooden wheel that will set in motion a series of belts
5. These belts rotates a gear on the back of the continental spare tire
6. The gear, depending on the direction, will turn the wheel to right or left
6. Reverse or drive mode decided which way car would turn
7. Once the car is in position, the self-parking system will stop the wheel from spinning further
8. Before exiting the car, make sure both the rear wheels are on the ground again.
While the system in itself was very basic and simple, this was also the positive aspect of the Walker's self parking system. This system was like a simple bolt-on-kit that can be used on any car regardless of the make and without altering the basic structure of the car. After demonstrating the system at various expos, Walker knew who was his audience.
Like mentioned above, since no one bought the system, Brook Walker and his Packard was the only piece remaining in the world which he kept to himself and drove only 75000 km. After that, the car only saw two other collectors after he sold it in 1980. The car is in pristine condition till now and is well preserved.
Currently, the car is with Willie Mehn, who was convinced by his friend to buy this car. “The car would go up and down, but there wasn’t enough pressure to lift it, because the hydraulics leaked,” Willie Mehn said. “We are planning on using [the self-parking system] at car shows, so we went through the whole thing.”
Though his self-parking system was a sound effort, he was heart-broken to see the response from people. But he never left his dream of making a perfect self-parking system and he kept on working on the project as late as 1970s. He owned an early-1950s Ford station wagon, a 1957 Oldsmobile station wagon, and a 1951 Cadillac Series Sixty Special, all with this device fitted.
All the mentioned cars had been modified to allow a tyre to be hidden beneath the car. It's only when the tyre was required, it was actually visible in the process of parking the car. He also boasted of being the first person to implement a rear facing third seat, a modification he achieved while fixing system in one of the cars.
By developing such an easy system, Walter actually helped the white-gloved, first time drivers who were comfortable with this system without much of the effort. While the technology has moved many steps ahead and now there are cars which can self-drive, we would say that this project was still one of its kind, low cost and easy to implement design.
Our respect for a genius and talented person like Brook Walkers!