LAS VEGAS — A fully automated 2015 BMW i3 with the ability to park itself without relying on a GPS signal will be showcased at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, January 6-9.
At the 2014 CES, BMW demonstrated some of its self-driving technology — called ActiveAssist — with a modified 2014 2 Series Coupe that drove itself around a racetrack at speed, dodging orange cones and maintaining its intended line, even when thrown into a sideways drift on a wet surface.
Now, for the 2015 show, BMW has equipped a new i3 electric model with Remote Valet Parking, a still more advanced system that adds the capability of parking itself — with or without a driver — even in large multi-story garages, where GPS signals are often unreliable.
When activated by a Smartwatch, BMW's Remote Valet Parking Assistant uses a variety of sensors and a digital site plan to guide the vehicle through the garage levels and around posts and other structures, avoiding even moving obstacles that appear suddenly, like other cars. Once it settles into a space, the i3 locks itself and awaits the signal to return and pick up the driver.
Of course, the latest ActiveAssist system also works with a driver onboard, functioning as a 360-degree collision-avoidance safety system on the road. BMW notes that the self-driving features can be overridden at any time, returning the vehicle to human control.
At the 2013 CES, Audi presented its Piloted Parking vehicle, which successfully drove out of a parking space in a garage, followed an intricate course and then returned to park itself, all without a driver.
However, unlike the BMW system, Audi's vehicle relied on the garage's infrastructure to accomplish the task. A series of laser sensors in the building recorded the car's movements and sent the data to a central computer, which then took control of the vehicle and guided its movements.
Mercedes-Benz has already demonstrated its commitment to autonomous cars with the S 500 Intelligent Drive research vehicle, which in August 2013 drove itself more than 60 miles between Mannheim and Pforzheim, Germany, negotiating dense traffic and complex road situations. More recently, the company introduced its Future Truck 2025, a large, self-driving commercial transporter.
The keynote address at CES 2015 will be delivered by Dr. Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the board of management of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. In addition to discussing the latest advances in autonomous vehicle technology, Zetsche will introduce a new concept car that is expected to feature the company's latest self-driving technology. In November, Mercedes-Benz revealed a few sketches of the new vehicle's interior but has since offered few other details.
At this point, most major automakers are testing some form of autonomous vehicle technology. For example, as previously reported by Edmunds, General Motors and Toyota are moving rapidly ahead with a number of advanced features that are clearly steps along the path to self-driving cars. GM plans to introduce its Super Cruise semi-autonomous system on a 2017 Cadillac model.
Earlier this year, Ford announced that it was partnering with MIT and Stanford universities to advance automated driving research. Nissan has also worked with major universities to develop prototypes and has said that it intends to have a commercially viable self-driving car on the road by 2020.
Google has been installing self-driving technology on vehicles from several manufacturers for a number of years and, as noted by Edmunds, began testing a fleet of its own unique autonomous prototypes this past summer.
Edmunds says: Whether or not the market is ready for fully autonomous vehicles, a self-parking car would appeal to many consumers.