Valet attendants of the world, your days may be numbered.
Volkswagen has officially announced its support of the V-Charge project, a research endeavor by the European Union to develop self-parking, self-charging vehicles. According the brand’s press release, V-Charge, which stands for Valet Charge, will save drivers time and take much of the stress out of parking in general.
Today, valet parking involves dropping your vehicle off with an attendant who parks and retrieves your ride for you. V-Charge automates the entire operation, using a combination of 3D maps and on-board cameras to make the process a snap. Simply exit your car at the desired location and the car will downloads a blueprint of the area, and then begin its search for an open spot. If needed, it will automatically drive to an open wireless charging pad and begin replenishing itself. Once the batteries have been replenished, it automatically disconnects and searches for an open stall, giving other cars the chance to fill up.
Volkswagen says the technology is perfect for car parks. As they’re often underground, GPS signals aren’t always accessible, and therefore the car must rely on pre-loaded maps and real-time navigation functions to keep it out of harm’s way. Volkswagen’s prototype e-Golf, shown in the video above, is fitted with four wide-angle cameras, two stereo cameras, and 12 ultrasound sensors. These allow the vehicle to recognize pedestrians and other obstacles and maneuver as needed.
The accompanying smartphone application initiates automated parking and charging with just a few buttons, and can also recall the vehicle when ready.
Another benefit to V-Charge is increased storage efficiency. By taking self-righteous, lazy, or simply unskilled parkers out of the equation, car lots could either become smaller or hold more cars, as the autonomous vehicles can position themselves with centimeter accuracy. After all, if there’s no one inside, they don’t need to allow space for the doors to open.
Better yet, you don’t have to remember where you parked. Simply whip out your smartphone, tap a few keys, and your ride comes to you like an obedient labrador. If nothing else, it sounds like a cool way to impress your friends.