Nissan North America will offer Valeo's Ultrasonic Park Assist system on the automaker's next generation of its minivan. Valeo's Ultrasonic Park Assist technology is a fifth generation design and was named a 2000 PACE Award finalist, according to Valeo.

The Valeo system alerts drivers with an audio beep when it senses an object in the vehicle's path while the vehicle is in reverse operation. The beep frequency intensifies as the vehicle backs closer to the object, becoming continuous when the vehicle is within 8 inches.

The system consists of an electronic control unit (ECU), proximity sensors and a speaker. Sound waves are reflected by nearby objects and processed by the ECU, which computes the distance from the time elapsed between transmission and reception, and generates an ultrasound burst, alerting the driver. Ultrasonic Park Assist technology is already offered as an option in various domestic SUV and minivan applications.

"We're pleased to be able to provide yet another important enhancement for Nissan's next-generation minivan," said Bill Thompson, sales director for the project. "Nissan minivans have been noted for outstanding handling, performance and convenience characteristics. Ultrasonic Park Assist will add yet another dimension to its technological features."

The 2004 minivan will be produced in Nissan's new Canton, Mississippi assembly plant, which is currently under construction. Nissan will be the first Japanese-owned automaker to offer the Ultrasonic Park Assist system from Valeo, according to Nissan.