Volvo has followed Audi's lead and demonstrated a car that can park itself with no driver on board. The driver uses a smartphone app to direct the car to find a parking space, and then to "call" the car to leave the spot later. The technology, "relieves the driver of the time-consuming task of finding a vacant parking space," Volvo senior safety advisor Thomas Broberg said in a statement.
The Volvo system, which uses V40 hatchbacks as demonstrator cars, requires a parking lot be equipped with Vehicle 2 Infrastructure technology. The car and garage communicate to locate an empty parking spot, and then the car's on-board sensors help it navigate to the space without hitting obstacles like cars, walls, or people. The driver exits the car at the garage entrance and uses a smartphone app to ask the car to park itself. Then, when he or she is ready to leave, the driver "calls" the car via the smartphone, and it drives to the garage exit.
This system differs from the self-parking systems already available from car companies like BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo itself. Those systems typically only steer the car into a parallel-parking spot while the driver is at the wheel and controlling the throttle and brake. Volvo's system requires no human interaction and works without a driver at all.
Earlier this year, Audi demonstrated a similar autonomous parking system at the Consumer Electronics Show. In Audi's demo, an A7 drove itself to an empty parking space at the behest of a smartphone-wielding operator, and later returned to the driver. Audi said the technology wouldn't be ready for widespread use until at least a decade from now.
Volvo has previously worked on semi-autonomous driving systems called road trains, in which multiple cars follow closely over long highway routes.Last fall, the company announced that it will launch a feature called Traffic Jam Assistance by 2014. The system can drive and steer a vehicle in thick highway traffic, so long as speeds remain below 31 mph.
Volvo doesn't provide a timeline for launching an autonomous parking feature, but hints that the next-generation XC90 crossover will have some form of autonomous steering. The company also confirmed today that the 2015 Volvo XC90 will be revealed "at the end of 2014."
The Swedish automaker sees autonomous or semi-autonomous driving features as an important step to improving car safety. It has publicly stated goal is that by 2020, "no one should be injured or killed in a new Volvo."