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New Prius can help you park

Car uses sensors, monitor to ease into tight spots

TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. has unveiled a new passenger car it says marks a first in using sensors and automated steering to help even the worst drivers ease into parking spots.

The redesigned Prius, which was introduced to the Japanese market Sept. 1, uses a monitor screen to scan the parking location and help guide the car into position, Toyota chief engineer Masao Inoue said.

"As you can see, the car does all the steering, helping you park," Inoue said at the car's Tokyo debut. "This is a very convenient feature for use in curbside parking or when backing up into the garage."

The new Prius will be available in North America in October, but the car will not be equipped with the automated steering device.

Toyota president Fujio Cho said the company hopes to sell 76,000 of the new models worldwide by the end of 2004, tapping a growing appetite for environmentally friendly cars.

The new Prius is equipped with a hybrid gasoline-electric engine that allows the driver to switch power on the roll and achieve fuel efficiency levels of up to 35.5 kilometers per liter (84 miles per gallon.)

The Prius, launched in 1997, has sold more than 120,000 units to date, the company said. In Japan, the new Prius is retailing for 2.15 million yen ($18,534.)

Toyota also has begun offering crash-warning devices in a limited number of vehicles in Japan. The system, which brakes and tightens the seat belt ahead of a crash, activates only after the driver steps on the brakes. For now, it's offered as an option on a luxury model sold only in Japan.