On average, New York City residents spend over 100 hours looking for parking every year, while Brits spend 44 hours, Volkswagen (opens in new tab) claims.
Now, the German automaker is hoping to reduce the time for their customers to as close to zero as possible.
VW announced (opens in new tab) last week a partnership with the Hamburg Airport in Germany, where the company has begun to test out self-parking cars in an isolated section of a parking garage. And it's hoping to give all of its new VW Group lineups—Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley and others—self-parking tech by 2020.
Right now, Audi, Porsche, and VW car owners with the latest VW AI tech can drop off their vehicles at the entrance to the garage; the cars will then self-navigate to a free spot, using map data to navigate and spot “pictorial markers” for orientation using sensors.
When drivers return, they message their car using an app, and their vehicle will navigate back to the entrance.
“People currently spend around 30% of their driving time in urban areas looking for a parking space,” Johann Jungwirth, CDO of the VW Group, said in a statement. “Autonomous parking can make an important contribution to creating convenient, stress-free mobility for our customers. We therefore want to democratize the technology and make it accessible to as many people as possible.”
To avoid any accidents, these cars will be isolated in a non-public section of the parking garage as the cars test out “thousands of parking maneuvers”.
But in the second stage of “mixed traffic” testing, Hamburg Airport will let self-parking cars into the rest of the garage, to see how they handle unpredictable cars and pedestrians.
VW's eventual goal is to set its parking AI loose in any outdoor parking lot.
Cars: the next personal assistants?
But the Volkswagen group is first out the gate for public testing, and beyond that, the company has some truly ambitious plans for its self-driving AI beyond parking.
Right now, electric or hybrid Porsche models at Hamburg Airport can drive up to charging stations, where the Porsche will communicate with a “charging robot” that will reach out an arm and power up the car until it’s at 100%. Then the Porsche will automatically head to a regular parking spot to free up charging space.
But VW cars won’t just talk to robots. By next year, VW hopes to test out “V2X procedures”, which will let autonomous cars essentially talk with nearby networks.
This will let the cars update routes based on accidents or weather conditions, or search for parking spaces blocks away without help.
What’s truly bold is the plan to have cars drive around and do chores for you while you’re out. VW details its plan for “Audi AI Zones”, where Audis will navigate to different businesses like car washes or gas stations for service.
Using an app, drivers will pick what their car should do while they’re gone, and then set it loose.
They can even program their car trunk as a GPS-locatable mail delivery spot, so that Amazon could drop off a package in your Audi while you’re at work, or a laundromat in the Audi Zone could toss your dry cleaning in the trunk.