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Last Updated: Monday, 1 September, 2003, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Self-parking car hits the shops
Toyota's president launches the new Prius
Toyota shows off the car that parks itself
Parking a big car in a small space can cause massive headaches for many.

But from this week, some Japanese car drivers will be able to park theirs without even touching the steering wheel.

The Prius, which is Toyota's newest and "greenest" car, has just gone on sale in Japan.

The Japanese car giant say it is a world first because it uses electronic sensors to avoid obstacles and guide it into spaces.

No hands

The Prius, which runs on electricity and petrol, was demonstrated at a press launch by Toyota President Fujio Cho.

With both hands away from the wheel, Mr Cho proved its automatic parking ability.

"I forgot to put on the brake," he said, "but it's easy."

The car uses an intelligent parking system which means it can park itself using electronic sensors.

The sensors judge its position and so allow it to avoid obstacles like other parked cars and kerbs.

Hybrid future

In 1997, Toyota became the first car makers to sell a mass-produced hybrid vehicle, and they have sold around 120,000 since then.

Car park
It still cannot find you a space though

Hybrid cars are more efficient than conventional ones because they combine an internal combustion engine with an electric motor.

This newest eco-friendly model will have a price tag of 2.15 million yen plus 230,000 yen for the intelligent parking system (around 12,900 altogether).

The car maker says it is much more fuel-efficient and therefore greener than other models and are expecting it to be popular.

"Development of eco-friendly cars is a key to our future growth strategy," Mr Cho explained.

Toyota says that due to growing demand for cars which are less harmful to the environment, it expects to sell around 76,000 of the Prius worldwide in 2004.

It aims to produce 300,000 of the eco-friendly hybrid vehicles a year by 2005 or 2006.

Green deal

Toyota, keen to exploit hybrid car technology, struck a deal with Nissan last year to share information and discuss the joint development of environmentally-friendly technology.

Both hoped the deal would help them boost efficiency and cut costs.

The hybrid Prius will be available in the US this year and the rest of the world in 2004.

It will, however, face competition from General Motors Corp and Ford Motor Co, who launch their first hybrids later this year.

BBC boss Greg Dyke's official chauffeur, Bill Ansborough
"I think it's great, it's absolutely great"

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17 Jun 03  |  West Yorkshire
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19 Jul 01  |  Science/Nature

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