BMW shows off self parking car tech

BMW has unveiled a new automated technology for its future lines of vehicles, showcasing the ability in an upcoming i3 vehicle for it to park itself if you tell it to via your smartwatch. Theoretically you could drive to a carpark, tell the car where to go and leave, letting it park itself. When you return to that same car park later, you can press a button to have it pick you up – or even ask it to nicely using voice commands on your smartwatch.

BMW is calling the tech the Remote Valet Parking Assistant and unlike traditional tracking and navigational tools, it doesn’t use GPS, instead utilising four separate lasers to create a virtual map of the car park. It’s even able to detect problems with improperly parked cars, or bays that are a bit tighter than usual and can either navigate around them or find another space to occupy instead. As the Mail suggests, BMW didn’t discuss what happens if the car cannot find a space, which could be potentially problematic if you’d wandered off and left it to it. Theoretically it could drive around continually looking, but that could create problems in and of itself.

Still, the technology is an exciting step towards fully automated vehicles. Future versions of this technology could have your car dropping you off where you want to go, before going and finding a car park space by itself. It can then return to pick you up when needed.


To make this new-tech possible today however, BMW has developed a 360 degree collision detection system, which prevents the vehicle from doing anything that could cause it to become damaged. If it detects a potential impact, the brakes will be applied immediately, which should mean even if someone else crashes into it, it won’t do too much damage.

Perhaps the most promising part about it however, is that specially designed carparks are not required. Automated vehicles are an exciting future prospect, but there has been some worry that roadways and buildings will need renovation to make it work. That seems unlikely now.

BMW’s twinning with wearables is an interesting one, with it showing that it’s hoping to targer the tech-savvy and early adopters with its new line of electric vehicles, with new automated features like parking and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

The only things left to wonder at this point is how effective this new tech will be when released to the public, when that will be and how much it will cost. Chances are this will be a standard feature on some vehicles, but perhaps there will be an options pack for others. Maybe BMW will throw in a free smartwatch to sweeten the deal.

What do you guys think of this? Is it a technology you’d buy a specific car for?

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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