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Automated driving is old news. Here’s automated parking from BMW

The notion of automated driving has made such rapid advances in just a handful of years that talking about it now almost seems like old news. It’s still in the works, but as many automakers are working on its own version of self-driving cars, it seems hard to stand out from the pack. At this year’s CES, BMW manages to do just that by showing a vehicle so autonomous, it doesn’t even need passengers.

This is the potential of BMW’s 360-degree collision avoidance technology, an environment sensing system that collects data primarily through four laser scanners used by the car to identify obstacles. Mounted on a BMW i3 research vehicle, the German car manufacturer showed what pairing this environmental awareness with automated driving software can do for drivers after they’ve left the car entirely.

The Remote Valet Parking Assistant means no more hunting for parking when you arrive at a destination. Drivers simply need to pitch up to the front door of the venue, then send the BMW off on its own to find a spot by a command via smartwatch. The car then heads to a parking garage where it goes up and through the levels looking for a suitable spot. The sensors can detect unexpected obstacles like an incorrectly parked vehicle and just steer around them. After finding a suitable post, it just parks, locks the doors, and waits for the driver to summon it back when they are done.

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A digital layout plan of the garage downloaded into the BMW means that it can navigate the structure without relying on a GPS location signal or any additions to the garage’s infrastructure, so drivers needn’t seek out places with “special” garages to use the feature. The automated system still plays a part when parking the old fashioned way, too. It scans for nearby obstacles and sends out an audible warning, just as you’d expect from any common parking assist, but if this warning goes unheeded, the BMW will auto-brake as a last resort.

It’s still going to be some time before we see self driving cars on public roads, but at least BMW has worked out the parking situation for when they eventually arrive.