E-Valet: You'll Never Circle A Parking Lot Ever Again!

It seems that we can do anything on a smartphone now. Soon, we can just swipe a finger, and our car will skedaddle off and find a parking s...

It seems that we can do anything on a smartphone now. Soon, we can just swipe a finger, and our car will skedaddle off and find a parking space for itself. The technology called "Connected Automated Valet Parking" is being developed by Valeo, a French auto parts manufacturer, and uses ultrasonic sound wave sensors, cameras and laser scanner to locate a vacant spot and park safely, without scraping other vehicles. Then, when you’re done with work, shopping or dinner, just swipe again and the car will come and get you.

With this virtual valet, drivers will not only be spared the treasure hunt for empty parking spaces, but more vehicles can be squeezed into the same area when space does not need to be allocated for opening of car doors.

Automated parking systems are nothing new: Lexus introduced one in its LS sedans in 2007, but the nascent technology was still flawed back then; BMW boasts of its Parking Assistant feature, which it claims can help search for a suitable parking space, but simply means that the driver still has to steer the vehicle along a row of parked cars while the BMW’s sensors measure for possible parking spots; and Nissan’s CEO, Carlos Ghosn, announced that the Japanese automaker will bring fully automated parking features to their cars by 2016. All these systems, however, still require the driver to remain in the car and cruise around looking for a spot.

With Valeo, parking lots equipped with the relevant infrastructure can communicate with the Valeo-enabled cars and direct them to empty parking spots; but even without it or in open, public areas, the cars can still look for spots themselves, albeit very much slower.

Although the technology is ready, full implementation of the e-valet is not without its hurdles, the main one being the same one faced by Google for its self-driving car. Having driverless cars on public roads is still a sticky issue, with rules being quickly drawn up to allow these cars to be tested but at the same time to keep the other drivers safe. Recently, Google’s Pod had a steering wheel and pedals added to its otherwise stark interior when the State of California ruled that human intervention must be possible during the testing phase. Although, we suppose, Valeo can still test the self-seeking and self-parking technology with a driver still behind the wheel without compromising the test results, but drivers would not be allowed to get out of the car and activate the technology, except in private lots.

Presently, only nine US states allow driverless cars on their public roads, and only for testing purposes. The UK government has announced that it plans to allow driverless cars on the roads of three of its cities from as early as January 2015, while in France, where Valeo is headquartered, efforts to incorporate the technology into public road usage is still in progress.

But if all goes well, going around parking lots in circles will soon be a thing of the past!


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