Trawling a multi-story car-park and then squeezing into a parking space can be a painstaking task. It would be much better if you could just drive into a car-park and leave your vehicle to do the rest. Well, that's exactly what BMW says its Remote Valet Parking system will let you do.
BMW isn't the first company to investigate driver-free parking. Last year, Volvo showed off its own autonomous parking concept car, which found its own way around a car-park before parking up. BMW takes that idea a step further, by letting its Remote Valet Parking-equipped i3 research vehicle loose on its own, in a multi-story car-park.
The basic idea is that a driver can enter a multi-story and then leave their vehicle, safe in the knowledge that it will navigate the building, find a space, park up and lock itself without running anyone over or hitting any pillars. The aim is to save individuals the time and effort of having to do all that themselves, giving them a head-start on their shopping trip in the meantime.
The system can be triggered by an app on a smartwatch, or presumably potentially by another device. Once the driver has exited the vehicle, they can send their vehicle on its way and leave it to its own devices. BMW says it's also possible for the driver to "call" their vehicle when they are on their way back to the car-park. Once notified, the system will work out how long the individual will be, before starting the car, re-navigating the car-park and meeting the driver back at a predefined point.
BMW explains that the Remote Valet Parking system uses a "360-degree collision avoidance" system. The system employs four laser scanners to scan the car's surrounding environment and identify obstacles, such as other vehicles, pedestrians or car-park pillars. The system is coupled with a digital site plan of the car-park that allows the vehicle to navigate without the need for GPS, which wouldn't be accurate enough anyway.
This system can also be used to help avoid collisions when a driver is in control of the car. In the event, for example, that a vehicle detected that it was moving towards a pillar too quickly, the brakes would be applied and the vehicle brought to a standstill. According to BMW, the system is very precise and can stop vehicles within a couple of centimeters of obstacles. The company also says that it is particularly useful for tight, poorly-lit environments like multi-story car-parks.
BMW's Remote Valet Parking system will be demonstrated at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas from January 6-9.
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