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Laser-guided self-driving BMW i3 revealed

See you later: BMW will showcase its Remote Valet Parking Assistant at next year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which allows a vehicle to navigate through a car park autonomously and find an empty space using lasers and a digital floor plan.

BMW has unveiled its fully autonomous i3 which uses lasers to find a parking space

17 Dec 2014

BMW has unveiled its latest autonomous vehicle technology that allows the driver to walk away while the laser-guided car finds a spare parking spot.

The Remote Valet Parking Assistant will be demonstrated on a BMW i3 research vehicle at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in early January next year.

The driver activates the system using voice controls and a smart-watch once they have stepped out of the car. The system uses four radar sensors and a digital site map of a multi-storey car park to guide the i3 through the building until a free space is found.

It will then park itself, turn the vehicle off and wait until the driver calls it using a smart-watch.

BMW said one of the advantages of its self-parking system is that it does not use GPS signals which can be inaccurate within building structures. Using laser sensors and a digital floor plan the vehicle can identify its surrounds and pinpoint its exact location.

Along with the laser sensors, there is an onboard processing unit which allows the i3 to be fully autonomous allowing unexpected obstacles such as badly parked cars to be spotted and safely navigated around.

BMW said another benefit of the laser-guided technology is that it does not require the car park to be fitted with infrastructure to assist its positioning.

In 2013 Volvo demonstrated its autonomous parking system, however, the Swedish car-maker’s version required in-road transmitters to help guide the vehicle.

At last year’s CES Audi showcased its self-parking technology. Activated with a smartphone app and using sensors and a wireless internet connection, the vehicle steered through a multi-storey car park, found an empty space and reversed into it before being called back by the driver at the building’s entrance.

BMW’s autonomous driving system can also be used in a semi-automatic mode with the driver steering. As the i3 is steered through the car park it will constantly monitor the surrounds and brake to avoid an impending collision.

While being demonstrated on an i3 now, BMW’s autonomous driving technology is likely to debut on the car-maker’s future high-end models such as the 7 Series.

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