During its time at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in January, BMW will showcase a research vehicle that can drop off a driver at the entrance of a parking garage before motoring off autonomously to find a parking space. The parked car can also be called back via a smart watch and it will sync its arrival with its driver's return to the entrance.
After the driver hops out of the vehicle and activates the remote valet's full autonomy mode, the automobile will navigate the levels of parking garages on its own and settle into a parking spot it selects. While the car is parking, the driver is already on to his or her next point of business.
"The fully automated Remote Valet Parking Assistant recognizes the structural features of the car park and equally reliably steers round any obstacles that appear unexpectedly -- such as incorrectly parked vehicles," states BMW in a release.
Drivers ready for their vehicles can call their cars back, using a smart watch's voice command. By pinging the smart watch, the car can calculate exactly when it needs to fire up the engine and head to the rendezvous point to arrive just as the driver does.
BMW has connected its vehicle's 360 sensor arrays to the garage's digital site plans to bring the fully automated valet to fruition. The research vehicle's use of laser sensors breaks it free of dependence on GPS, which is still notoriously bad when the sky is obstructed by concrete and earth, but the digital site plans must be available.
BMW's remote valet feature is the evolution of the company's partially automated and assisted driving systems. The automaker says its goal is to lay the foundation for "highly automated" driving modes to at least 2020, though it anticipates the tech to continue to evolve from there.
While BMW works to take steering wheels out of the hands of drivers, Google's progress in that department is making strides as well. A representative from Google's Self-Driving Car Project recently announced its driverless car concept has evolved from its May mock-up into the company's first complete prototype, which is hitting the roadways now.
"We're going to be spending the holidays zipping around our test track, and we hope to see you on the streets of Northern California in the new year," stated the representative. "Our safety drivers will continue to oversee the vehicle for a while longer, using temporary manual controls as needed while we continue to test and learn. Happy holidays!"