Volvo is planning to demonstrate a car with a fully autonomous parking feature. In addition to serving as a cool parlor trick, it could be an absolute game-changer for the urban driving experience.
Volvo claims this truly smart car will be able to both find and park in a spot without the driver inside. In operation, the driver leaves the car at the entrance to the parking lot and it'll take care of the rest. When it's time to go home, the driver can pick the car up back at the entrance.
While the most nervous parkers will welcome the vehicular help, and it'll be nice to valet a car at a massive suburban shopping center on Black Friday, the true benefit of self-parking technology comes from freeing up city streets from cars searching for spaces. According to a study from UCLA urban planning professor Donald Shoup, it takes drivers on average eight minutes to find a parking space in an urban environment, and around thirty percent of cars on the road in congested areas are just searching for a place to park.
If cars could park themselves, drivers could simply get "dropped off" at their destination, and cars could then park in more distant satellite lots. When you're done shopping or dining, or when your doctor's appointment is through, you'd simply summon your vehicle to arrive nearby.
Don't expect to see the technology anytime soon, however. Volvo's automated technology is contingent on Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) technology, which requires a joint effort between "smart" cars and "smart" roads. Without the appropriate transmitters embedded in the road infrastructure, a car isn't yet intelligent enough to make parking decisions on its own.
It is, however, a logical next step for Volvo, who is already working on other autonomous driving solutions. They've already introduced "City Safety" detection and auto brake technology that, if connected to a wider V2I network, could take the driver out of driving. Auto-steering will come about on the updated XC90, which goes on sale later this year.