Volvo shows off self-parking valet, auto steering for 2014 XC90
Drivers drop off the vehicle at the entrance to a parking lot or structure and the car finds a spot and parks on its own.
For anyone who has ever grown weary of circling a crowded parking lot trying to find an empty space or reluctantly turned over a vehicle to a valet, Volvo has created technology that allows a car to park all on its own.
This isn’t the same concept as the ones shown by BMW and VW that allow a car owner to exit and standby while the car eases itself into a tight garage at home or public parking spot. But it is similar in that the automatic parking trick is accomplished using a smartphone app. Audi showed a similar concept at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in January.
Volvo said that a concept car with the technology can find a vacant space and park by itself, without the driver inside or even there to watch. “The driver just drops the vehicle off at the entrance to the car park and picks it up in the same place later," Thomas Broberg, senior safety advisor for the Volvo Car Group, said in a statement.
And the procedure can be reversed when the driver comes back to retrieve the car -- sort of like having your own invisible valet, except it doesn’t change your seat settings.
The concept uses vehicle-to-infrastructure technology and cloud-connected parking information like we’ve seen from Audi, Lexus and even Apple that can tell the driver when and where parking spots are available. The vehicle then uses on-board sensors, cameras and processing to find and navigate to a parking space.
This is partly possible through existing and forthcoming driver assist technologies that can automatically steer and brake. Volvo said the technology also allows its concept car to interact safely with other vehicles as well as pedestrians in a parking lot or structure.
“Our approach is based on the principle that autonomously driven cars must be able to move safely in environments with non-autonomous vehicles and unprotected road users,” Broberg added.
Volvo is taking a similar approach with the Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) project in which vehicles travel semi-autonomously in tight formations on existing highways and among non-networked vehicles. SARTRE completed successful demonstrations in 2012 in which up to four autonomously driven Volvos followed behind a lead truck in a pack at speeds up to 55 mph -- and with no more than a 14-foot gap between the vehicles.
Up next for Volvo is autonomous steering for production cars, which the automaker said will be available on the new XC90 by the end of 2014. And while this may cause alarm among driving enthusiasts concerned that the rapid rise of autonomous car technology will take away the pleasure of piloting a vehicle, it’s doubtful that few would feel the same way about allowing the car to automatically take over the mundane task of parking.
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