The driver of a 2013 BMW was using his Park Assist option in a Stuart, Florida, Target parking lot, when things started to go wrong. The driver claimed that the system malfunctioned, causing the car to speed up, jump the parking curb, and land on top of another car on the other side. That’s what he told officers, anyway.
However, BMW of North America had a problem with that version of the story, telling ABC news in an e-mail from Dave Buchko, a spokesman for BMW NA, “The car involved in this incident is not equipped with the optional BMW Park Assist feature—which could not, therefore, have played a role.” Buchko added, “BMW Park Assist prompts the driver to engage the appropriate gear—either forward or reverse—and requires the driver to control the speed of the car using the brake and accelerator pedals." The system does not have the ability to accelerate the car.”
Pictures from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office raise another question about the driver’s claim. The parking lot seems to be a normal, store-type parking lot with pull-in or back-in spaces. Since BMW Park Assist aids the driver only in parallel parking, why would the driver have employed it there?
So what really happened and who was at fault? If BMW NA is correct that the option was not installed in this car, did the owner really think he had Park Assist? Or is this the 21st-century version of Audi’s “unintended acceleration” from the 1980s (famously and egregiously misreported by 60 Minutes, by the way) in which drivers pressed the gas pedal thinking that they were on the brake pedal, sometimes with tragic results? We may never know. We’re just glad that in this case, no people were hurt, although one tree may never be the same. Both cars had to be towed.—Scott Blazey
(Photos: Martin County Sheriff's Office)Back to News