Volvo autonomous parking demo - video screencap

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.