CES: BMW to Demonstrate 'Remote Valet' Self-Parking Car

BMW Driverless i3 - H 2014
Courtesy of BMW

BMW Driverless i3 - H 2014

After dropping off the driver, the car drives itself to an open parking space. The system may debut on BMW's 7-Series next year

Self-parking cars have been around since 2006 but they require the driver to find an open space. At the CES International convention in Las Vegas next month, BMW will demonstrate a specially equipped i3 that drops off its driver at the entrance to a garage, navigates to an open space, parks and locks itself, then repeats the process in reverse when the driver remotely summons the car with a smart watch.

Four laser scanners and other sensors embedded in the i3 feed a 360-degree view of its surroundings to BMW’s Active Assist driving system, which references a digitized floor plan of the garage for guidance and steers around unexpected obstacles.

When the car is remotely summoned, BMW claims the system will calculate the time needed so that the car arrives when the driver enters the garage.

Today's self-driving cars work best in controlled-access environments such as parking garages and freeways, but have difficulty parsing city streets, where the movements of cars and pedestrians are less predictable. (The University of Michigan is building a $6.5 million "city" on 30 acres of its Ann Arbor campus to test autonomous cars in a simulated urban environment.)

Widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles would contribute $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy through cost savings from reduced fuel consumption and accidents, including $507 billion in productivity gains because people could work while commuting instead of driving, according to a Morgan Stanley research report.

Car manufacturers predict highly autonomous cars will arrive between 2020 and 2030, while Google, which has been testing a fleet of self-driving cars on California highways, suggests they are only three years away.