BMW has announced that its Remote Garage Park Assist will be available in the new 7 series, due to launch later this year.
The new 7 Series will be able to park itself using technology developed for autonomous driving. The driver will be able to step out of the car and watch it reverse the car into a tight space – all at the touch of a button on the key fob.
The maximum movement of the car will be no more than two or three metres, so it’s mainly useful for letting you step out of the vehicle before it squeezes itself into a tight space. The driver still bears responsibility because he or she will have to keep a button depressed until the car signals it has finished parking.
BMW is, however, working on a more advanced solution known as Remote Valet Parking Assist, where the driver will be able to exit the car at their destination and send the car to find its own parking space.
We got a chance to see the system in action at CES 2015 for ourselves, and very impressive it was. Using a command from a smart watch, the car is sent away and then circles the car park until it finds an available space.
Using four laser scanners, the vehicle digitally maps the area around it to understand where obstacles are before manoeuvring into a parking space. The system has access to a pre-supplied map of the car park so it already understands where it is ‘allowed’ to park, ensuring it doesn’t put itself in a disabled bay.
The driver can also use the smart watch to command the car to come back to a specific point. The system avoids using GPS to understand a driver’s location, as satellite signals are often unavailable in multi-storey car parks or basement parking lots. Instead it relies on signals from compatible surrounding infrastructure. For example signs with embedded wireless systems might indicate a drop off/pick up zone and transmit a signal to inform the vehicle of this.
BMW said the car has been programmed to avoid obstacles, though at this stage it is only guaranteed to detect things inanimate obstacles, so if you’re a pedestrian and you happen to see a prototype equipped with the feature, make sure you stop dead in your tracks before it runs you over.
Of course, future versions will be able to detect dynamic objects.