Navigate Tight Spaces with Ease: The World’s First Fifth Wheel Parking System

Car with fifth wheel parking system

In modern times, majority of adults struggle with parallel parking, they are not trained enough to correctly park their cars in the provided parking space. But what if we tell you that in the year 1930, someone invented a method that allows car owner to simplify the task of parallel parking. Who was the creator? How the method works? We’ll cover all the things in this article.

Who invented the fifth wheel parking system?

Parallel parking the vehicles was quite tough at that time. Individuals used to assist in car parking using hand signals. Person outside the car has to give gestures such as indicating the driver when to stop, turn the steering wheel, or move forward or backward. This was a quite tedious task and always required one person to assist.

Brooke Wheeler, who was living in California, felt that there could be a better way to park the vehicle. That’s why he applied his creative skills to design a vehicle in which the fifth wheel was installed in the trunk, allowing the car to be parked without the need of extra person.

Principle and Working

The method was pretty basic. For this system he used hydraulics, a car with an empty boot space, an additional wheel and gears. He first utilized the vehicle’s boot compartment to install an empty wheel, then he connected the wheel and hydraulics with drive shaft using a separate frame. To activate the mechanism, a pull button was provided beneath the dashboard of the car.

When a person wants to park the car using the assistance system, they have to first pull the button provided beneath the dashboard of the car, which will activate hydraulics and enable the additional wheel (fifth wheel) which is positioned in the boot compartment to come down, causing the car to lift from rear side. It functions similarly to a hydraulic jack which is used to change ‘stepney’. The position of the wheel installed in the vehicle is similar to the spare wheel that is mounted on the back of current SUV’s. The car will be able to swivel left and right with the help of this wheel, and it can be effortlessly parked.

Which was the car that he used for this purpose?

The car that he used was a Cadillac, which was highly popular at the time. He modified it and installed a fifth wheel for parallel parking assistance.

What was the price of installation?

When Brooke Walker came up with this question during an interview with Life magazine, he replied that it costs $175 to install the whole system. In today’s money, that equates to roughly $3,178. Also he added that, it can be installed in any car which has empty boot space.

Timeline from invention to patent

Invention – He designed the first prototype in 1930, and the first commercial of the car was released in 1931.

Patent – He applied for the patent application in 1932 and was granted a patent for his invention four years later, in 1936.

Problems with this parking assistance system

  • No more boot space: If you wish to install this system, you would have to say goodbye to your car’s boot space for forever. Because installing this system takes up the whole boot area of the car. Single folks won’t have an issue since they can put their bags on the back seat, but those with families will be at a loss.
  • No real world testing: The car has only been shown in commercials, no one has seen it in live action. So people were confused whether it would be a success or not.
  • Price seems expensive: People thought the pricing was relatively high, and it was out of their budget range.

Was this invention accepted by the car industry?

Unfortunately, the fifth wheel system was rejected twice by automobile industry. The main reason behind this was that there was little market demand for such technology, and major automobile manufacturers were also concerned about its reliability and compatibility. These might be the major factors for the rejection of this parking assistance system.

Some real world applications

  • Stress free parking: Parking a vehicle in a congested area or in an unfamiliar place is quite stressful. The driver’s stress will be relieved by the fifth wheel parking system, and they will no longer have to rely on guess work while parking the car.
  • Time saving: The traditional parking method requires many attempts, resulting in significant amounts of time waste. This parking system will save individuals a lot of time and allow them to park fast wherever they desire.
  • Increased safety: This parking device will aid in the reduction of accidents, lowering the likelihood of your car being scratched or dented.
  • Improved confidence: People who are new to car driving, find parallel parking challenging, that’s why many individuals get nervous while parking. This system can boost their confidence in parking the car without the need of other person.
  • Good for commercial vehicles: Truck drivers often encounter issues when parking their trucks in congested areas such as loading docks or busy delivery areas. The parking system allows them to operate their trucks securely and effectively in small spaces, saving time and reducing the danger of accidents or property damage.

Can we compare it with today’s autopilot?

The answer is No, we cannot compare the two technologies. Both the technologies are different. Fifth Wheel Driving system is a manually controlled, in which the driver has to park the car himself using hydraulics and a fifth wheel.

On the other side, autopilot is a completely self-driving system that can also parallel park. You are not required to manually drive the car unlike in the manual one. Everything gets handled by the software, from driving the car to parallel parking. However, this method is too costly. As an example: – Tesla’s Fully Self Driving System with parallel parking (FSD) costs $15,000 to install. It is quite costly, and not everyone can afford it.

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