Volvo self-parking car is the valet you don't pay

Volvo has revealed self-parking tech that allows drivers to drop their car off at a parking garage and have it automatically navigate to a spare space, summoning the vehicle from their smartphone on their return. The system, installed on a Volvo concept car, can not only drive itself to a free location but avoid other cars and pedestrians on the way, without any interaction from the owner.

Unlike, say, Google's self-driving car technology, which uses expensive LIDAR arrays to build up dynamic maps of the surrounding area and navigate through them, Volvo's demands some prior setup be in place in the lot. Called "Vehicle 2 Infrastructure" technology, the system basically involves transmitters embedded into the road.

Those sensors can notify a passing car when a parking garage has vacant spaces, at which point the driver can simply leave their vehicle at the entrance. Self-driving systems built into the car, along with a brace of sensors and auto-brake technology for obstacle and pedestrian avoidance, then takes the Volvo to the empty location.

Volvo self-parking car concept video:

It's not Volvo's first time putting street smarts inside a car. The company demonstrated a working "road train" system last year, where a self-driving convoy of cars were able to drive at 55mph with minimal gaps between them, and no human control required. Similar technology has been used in the company's self-driving traffic jam system, while the safety sensors have been implemented in a cyclist-detection array which can automatically slam on the brakes if a bike is perilously close.

Volvo is counting on increased inter-car and car-to-environment communication to help bring technology like this to the public, with a deal with Ericsson late last year promising to get future vehicles hooked up to the cloud. It's not the only comms approach being trialled, however; Mercedes Benz plans to have the Car-to-X system deployed by the end of the year, bringing localized safety information directly to the dashboard and in effect giving drivers "an eye around the blind-spot."

Volvo self-parking car demo:

Unfortunately, it may be some time before you can actually summon your car from the parking lot and have it show up, Volvo warns, with the system still under development. However, the first elements of the technology should show up in production vehicles before the end of 2014, with the new XC90 expected to debut an autonomous steering system.