A number of companies are developing autonomous vehicle technology – Google and Audi come to mind – but Volvo is applying its work in the area to a particular usage case: parking. The Swedish automaker has the technology up and running in a concept vehicle, which it says can be dropped off at the curb by its owner and left to its own devices to enter and navigate a car park, then find and park in an available parking spot. Volvo says the process can even be reversed when the owner is ready to go, with the car leaving the car park on its own to meet its key-holder again at the curb.

The vehicle first interacts with Vehicle 2 Infrastructure technology, which places transmitters in the road itself to inform the car (and driver) if the self-parking service is available. The driver then hops out, activates the Self Parking function on his or her smartphone and then leaves the car to do its work. The car uses sensors, all seemingly hidden from view (an advancement of its own in this field), to autonomously navigate the car park, which includes interacting and adjusting to other cars, people and objects.

The technology used here builds off of Volvo's other work in autonomous vehicle research, namely the Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) project in which the company managed to create a train of four cars autonomously following a lead truck at speeds up 56 miles per hour. Volvo says the first application of its autonomous research in a production vehicle will happen at the end of 2014 with some level of autonomous steering available in the next-generation XC90. See the system in action by watching the video below.

Volvo's Self-Parking Autonomous Car Concept

Volvo Autonomous Self-Parking Car Animation
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Volvo Car Group demonstrates the ingenious self-parking car

Volvo Car Group has developed an ingenious concept for autonomous parking. The concept car, which will be demonstrated at a media event next week, finds and parks in a vacant space by itself, without the driver inside. The smart, driverless car also interacts safely and smoothly with other cars and pedestrians in the car park.

"Autonomous Parking is a concept technology that relieves the driver of the time-consuming task of finding a vacant parking space. The driver just drops the vehicle off at the entrance to the car park and picks it up in the same place later," says Thomas Broberg, Senior Safety Advisor Volvo Car Group.

Vehicle 2 Infrastructure technology, in other words transmitters in the road infrastructure, informs the driver when the service is available. The driver uses a mobile phone application to activate the Autonomous Parking and then walks away from the car.

The vehicle uses sensors to localise and navigate to a free parking space. The procedure is reversed when the driver comes back to pick up the car.

Interacts with other vehicles and road users

Combining autonomous driving with detection and auto brake for other objects makes it possible for the car to interact safely with other cars and pedestrians in the car park. Speed and braking are adapted for smooth integration in the parking environment.

"Our approach is based on the principle that autonomously driven cars must be able to move safely in environments with non-autonomous vehicles and unprotected road users," says Thomas Broberg.

Pioneering autonomous technologies

Volvo Car Group's aim is to gain leadership in the field of autonomous driving by moving beyond concepts and actually delivering pioneering technologies that will reach the customers. The Autonomous Parking concept is one of several development projects in this field.

Volvo Cars has also been the only participating car manufacturer in the SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project, which was successfully completed in 2012. The project involved seven European partners. It is the only one of its kind to focus on technology that can be implemented on conventional highways on which platooned traffic operates in a mixed environment with other road users.

The SARTRE platoon included a lead truck followed by four Volvos driven autonomously at speeds of up to 90 km/h - in some cases with no more than a four-metre gap between the vehicles.

Autonomous steering in the next XC90

"The autonomous parking and platooning technologies are still being developed. However, we will take the first steps towards our leadership aim by introducing the first features with autonomous steering in the all-new Volvo XC90, which will be revealed at the end of 2014," concludes Thomas Broberg.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 25 Comments
      The Wasp
      • 1 Year Ago
      I wonder if there is any way for the car to recognize restricted parking (like handicapped, expectant mother, reserved, employee of the month, etc.) and I wonder if the driver can tell the car whether it's okay to use each type of parking.
        Dan Kuehling
        • 1 Year Ago
        @The Wasp
        I suppose theoretically it could (handicapped parking placard with RFID, for example)...but then if the car drops you at the door and finds its own parking space, what does it really matter how far away it is?
      Jasonn
      • 1 Year Ago
      "Your car is parked here... 17.2 miles away because there were no open parking spaces."
      Adam Bair
      • 1 Year Ago
      Is it just me or is that back end dead sexy!
      Shane
      • 1 Year Ago
      Might as well have the car sent home, parking in the driveway. Then, when you ready to leave, the car will be on its way to you from your house. No need for parking fees or even parking lots!
      Camaroman101
      • 1 Year Ago
      something i dont think they'll anticipate is other drivers seeing its a computer driving and having no problem diving into the spot while the car gets ready to park itself.
      Joe
      • 1 Year Ago
      What are you going to do if the car screws up parking itself and dings itself on the car next to it? Who's fault would that one be?
        Camaroman101
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Joe
        i highly doubt they'ed release the tech if it's not ready and 100% successful
      Bryan Rex
      • 1 Year Ago
      if you can't park your own damn car then DO NOT EFFING DRIVE
      express2day
      • 1 Year Ago
      Walking to and from distant parking spaces is about the only exercise some people get. Now that would disappear too? This function should only work if the weight of the driver and passengers in each of the seats is under a certain amount. :)
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
        MeanMrMustard
        • 1 Year Ago
        I'm sure the people developing this are smart enough to have foreseen this scenario. It'll have the doors locked until a fob is detected and engine could be disabled once the brake or accelerator are depressed with no key detected. The engineers aren't idiots.
        helloac
        • 1 Year Ago
        i could see way, way in the future that if a self-driving car believes it is being tampered with it could auto call 911 or drive to a police station lol
          chanonissan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @helloac
          That is no joke it was already demonstrated..
      foxtrot685
      • 1 Year Ago
      A shame the V40 wont be offered in the states, its an attractive hatchback.
      domingorobusto
      • 1 Year Ago
      This would bring up SO many issues. Who is to blame if the car that's hunting for a spot runs over somebody? The automaker? The driver, even though they weren't present? What about property damage caused by the car? What if it encounters a situation outside of it's parameters, like happens all the time? While this is pretty neat to watch, until we have AI with at least the decision making prowess of the average driver it just seems destined to failure.
        Don Cullen
        • 1 Year Ago
        @domingorobusto
        Actually, the insurance companies already sorted that out, along with the state governments (in the USA at least) that have legalized automated driving. If there's an incident between two vehicles, one being automated and one being manual, and the car being automated has no driver present -- the owner of the automated car is at 100% fault regardless of what happened. If both cars are automated and both drivers aren't present, fault is split 50/50. If it's an automated car involved in property damage and the driver isn't present, the owner is at fault regardless of what happened. Basically it all comes down to whether the driver's in the driver's seat at the time of the incident that'll ultimately decide fault. Of course, that liability system is subject to modification as usage of automated vehicles are on the rise. Of course, I'm not qualified to give this type of advice, so one would best be advised to consult an attorney, their state government, and/or their respective insurance agency in regards to liability issues.
        Chunky
        • 1 Year Ago
        @domingorobusto
        The same arguments could be made for almost any complex system, but we are humans will naturally strive to solve all these issues. I'm sure back in the day same arguments were made towards cars in general. What is the gas tank is punctured or damaged in an accident-better locations and durable materials. What if a person is not qualified to drive- drivers licensing and driver records. What if a person is still a bad driver and caused dings in a parking lot- insurance and insurance records. Well those cars are pretty neat to watch but I'll just go ahead and stick to my horse for now.
      Jason Krumvieda
      • 1 Year Ago
      After seeing the new spy photos of the Mazda 3, are these 2 cars still on the same platform? The belt line looks so similar.
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