Even if you're pretty enthusiastic about driving, parking is probably more of a chore than a joy. That's why Volkswagen is working on a way to potentially skip over that part.
The German automaker is testing a system called V-Charge in Europe that combines automated parking with automated charging with electric cars. All the driver needs to do is get out and order the car to park itself, and the vehicle finds a space, including one with a wireless charging station, if necessary. VW essentially hopes to put valets out of business.
To create a self-parking car, Volkswagen festooned an e-Golf with cameras and ultrasonic sensors. That includes four wide-angle cameras, two 3D cameras, and 12 ultrasound sensors. The car uses digital maps for reference, and V2V communication technology to pick up signals from infrastructure and other cars for further guidance.
The sensor-based approach allows a car to orient itself without the use of GPS, which often doesn't work in underground parking garages because the signal can't penetrate below the surface. VW promises "centimeter-exact" parking, so the system is probably more accurate than a human valet too.
In the case of an electric car, V-Charge can also be programmed to find parking spaces with charging stations. Since the car obviously can't connect itself to a charging cord, these have to be wireless. Once the car is done charging, it automatically vacates the space to make room for the next vehicle in need of some juice. Electric car owners will probably appreciate that feature, as blocked charging stations are already testing the limits of social decorum in their ranks.
VW says V-Charge is "already functional today," but won't discuss a timeline for putting it into production.
These days, it seems autonomous parking gets as much attention as autonomous driving. BMW and Land Rover have both demonstrated systems that could be used for human-less parking, and Mercedes-Benz will introduce a remote parking pilot on the 2017 E-Class.