Need Help Parking? Let Your Car Do the Work
In 2006, a new kind of car hit the market: one that could parallel park all by itself. You might have seen the commercials where the driver sticks their hands out of the window, laughing as the car perfectly backs itself into a space. Some self-parking cars operate by using radar to guide them, others use a combination of sensors, lasers and detailed maps to allow them to park like, well, a parking pro. With the high cost, the self parking cars didn't catch on with the public, but the technology has been advancing over the years.
Recently, at a Las Vegas hotel, a BMW engineer spoke four words into a his Samsung Gear S smartwatch "BMW, go park yourself." The specially equipped BMW i3 did just that, navigating the crowded garage to back perfectly into a free space. Another command ("BMW, pick me up") and the car came back like a dog returning to its master, missing only a tennis ball to drop at his feet. This car that doesn't use GPS but laser scanners, a map of the garage, and a cellular data connection. Only a few years behind James Bond.
Starting with parallel parking systems, self parking vehicles were offered to the public in 2006, mostly in high-end models. The new technology can park in any space, any way, not just parallel. Many automakers are either adopting versions of the self-parking technology, or have been already been featuring it on select high-end models for several years, but it has been slow to catch on. Many may feel they don't need the extra help to put their car into a space, while others might want it, but find the cost prohibitive.
The promise from the engineers and automakers is that the new tech will be in cars in the next 12 months. The benefits offered by the self parking technology are no more dented and scraped fenders and dings, plus the car that parks itself without a driver eliminates the fear of the joyriding parking lot attendant. The problem with the newest iteration of this tech is that without a driver in the seat, it may meet some regulation resistance.
To answer the possible regulations problems some manufacturers plan to add a 360-degree camera. Users will be watching the camera from their smartphones, keeping their fingers on the screens. Once they lift a finger, the car will stop on its own. This way the driver remains in control of the car, even though they themselves are not actually inside. The camera can also be used to see the difference between handicapped, and non-handicapped spots.
Some companies, like ParkMe and Parkopedia, have been working to solve the other part of the parking equation: where can you actually park? They have been gathering up information on parking lots around the world, over 6,000 cities in 52 different countries. They hope to provide real time prices and availability via an app.
Parkopedia even plans to have the customer set such preference as find the nearest space, or the cheapest space available, among other functions. There are also plans by automakers to included parking information available in the cars themselves through the dash computer. Next, your car will go to work for you, sit in your chair and drink coffee, while complaining about Mondays.