The Tartan Racing "Boss" Tahoe that won the recent DARPA Urban Challenge

We've all been there. Rolling up and down the aisles at the mall or the movie theater trying to find an empty spot, or waiting anxiously for someone to finish loading their car only to find them going back to another store. Or else you see what looks like an empty spot beyond the Suburban only to find a Honda Fit tucked away behind it. Then of course there are the times that you've raced through the rain from your car to the store. According to General Motors VP of Research and Development Larry Burns, studies have shown that twenty percent of the miles accumulated by drivers in Manhattan are spent trolling for parking spaces. That stop and go driving wastes a lot of fuel.

Recently the development of autonomous vehicles has seen a lot of progress, particularly as a result of the DARPA Urban Challenge. While real, fully-autonomous vehicles are probably still a ways out, some of that technology may appear sooner than you might expect. The first real implementation of fully autonomous vehicles could be in the realm of parking. A parking lot or garage could easily be equipped with sensors that detect the presence of cars in each space so that a computer knows where room is available. A vehicle with a communications system that could talk to the parking system could search for an empty space, reserve it, and then automatically park itself after you get out right at the door. When you come out, you can automatically retrieve your car and never have to worry about remembering where you parked. Imagine it, no more idling in the aisles. According to Burns, we could see this start to appear in about five years.

[Source: General Motors]

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