Volvo has successfully demonstrated a prototype vehicle that can park itself — sans driver — while sharing the road with other users.
The way it works is remarkably simple — a driver steps out of their car in the designated drop-off / pick-up zone and sends a message to the car via smartphone app to go park itself. The driver then heads in, whereupon he or she will receive a message that the car has safely found a spot, and the coordinates of its location.
After the errand has been run, dinner eaten, or meeting finished, the driver comes back out to the drop-off / pick-up zone, sends a message to the car that he or she is ready to be picked up, and awaits the vehicle’s arrival. The same sensors and cameras that the car used to get to find an open spot, it will now use to find its way back to the driver.
"Autonomous Parking is a concept technology that relieves the driver of the time-consuming task of finding a vacant parking space. The driver just drops the vehicle off at the entrance to the car park and picks it up in the same place later," says Thomas Broberg, Senior Safety Advisor of the Volvo Car Group.
What makes this technology particularly exciting is Volvo’s combining of the autonomous driving feature with cutting-edge detection sensory and auto brake technology; that is, speed and braking are adapted as the vehicle navigates through the lot, so there’s no need to add infrastructure to accommodate these cars — existing lots and parking garages can be used and no “smart car-only” zones, if you will, are necessary.
"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," explains Broberg.