James Bond remotely summons his luxury sedan via a control pad from its multistory-garage parking space, in the 1997 movie Tomorrow Never Dies. He then vaults into the back seat and remotely guides it out of the garage with villains in pursuit.
Today, German luxury-car manufacturers such as Audi have developed remote-controlled autonomous parking technology that makes 007-style fantasy a reality.
Audi is equipping its 2019 A8 L, priced in the low-$90,000s and up, with Audi AI remote Parking Pilot and Garage Pilot that autonomously steers the sedan into and out of a parking space. The owner can be in the vehicle during the maneuver or remotely monitor the operation.
“The technology is something that’s still in the works as far as being approved for the U.S. market,” says Ariel Esparza, an Audi Brand Ambassador. “Audi is slated to have that approved by the end of the first quarter of 2019.”
The system is built into the vehicle, says Esparza, and can be made operational after it’s approved. “A customer can come into the dealership and activate it through a software update,” he says. “The customer can actually download an app to their smartphone, which is a myAudi app, and basically they will be able to self-park the vehicle through an app on their smartphone. It will have full parking capability within a garage – it will basically remote-drive itself.”
Sensors, cameras guide cars to parking spot
Strategically positioned control units and sensors on the A8 L allow it to “see” and maneuver through a garage in full driverless mode.
The vehicle is fitted with four 360-degrees cameras – one up front, one in the rear and one in each side mirror; four ultrasonic sensors – two on the front corners and two on the lower rear sides, just aft of the wheel openings; a central driver-assistance controller; a roof antenna; and a dash-top-mounted Multi Media Interface. These units work to create a large oval sensor area around the vehicle.
Parking Pilot and Garage Pilot systems access the steering, accelerator, brakes, Tiptronic automatic transmission and optional dynamic all-wheel steering. It can precisely maneuver into perpendicular or parallel parking spaces. The system continually scans for parking spots at speeds under 25 mph.
Walk away and let the car park itself
The A8 L can be driven up to a covered parking garage entrance, and the driver can step out of the sedan and initiate the parking procedure via the myAudi smartphone app. The owner can walk away and allow the car to execute parking duties. Assurance that the parking procedure is a success comes by pressing and holding the Audi AI button to view a live display of the maneuver from the car’s 360-degree cameras.
While working its way to an empty space, it can navigate a narrow path and make tight turns. The sedan can come very close to walls, and obstructions such as bikes and trash cans. When parking is complete, the system automatically engages the transmission’s park position and switches off the ignition.
On the way back to the parking garage, the owner can start the car with the smartphone app and summon it. The vehicle departs the parking space and drives to the exit to pick up the driver.
Owners also can walk out of the front doors of their homes, stand at the edge of the driveway and summon the vehicle from the garage with the app. On the return trip, the driver can park at their home’s walkway and exit the vehicle. It will return to the garage, engage the transmission’s park position and shut off the engine.
Audi’s AI system can add convenience to slipping into a store parking-lot space without room to adequately open the doors to exit. The driver gets out of the car and starts the parking maneuver with the app, and it backs into the space. Returning to the vehicle, the app can be used to ease the car forward to the point where the doors clear the vehicles on either side.
Technology allows Audi to find potential parking spaces
Parallel parking in tight spaces is another situation covered by the Audi AI system. Its Park Assist feature is available on all 2019 Audi models except the A6. The system introduces the driver to potential spaces – both parallel and perpendicular -- and display them on a central monitor. Activating the turn signal indicates the desired side of the road the driver wants to park. When a space is chosen the driver pushes a park selection button on the center stack.
With the vehicle shifted into reverse it takes over the steering, but the driver is responsible for braking and acceleration as the vehicle reverse parallel parks. Both visual and audible alerts are given to indicate when the vehicle is close to an object and when it’s time to brake.
Audi isn’t alone among German luxury-car manufacturers in developing autonomous self-parking technology – competitors such as BMW and Mercedes Benz offer similar self-park features. Automated parking is a stepping stone to fully autonomous driving that will be commonplace well before fully driverless cars are prevalent on roadways.
Editor's note: Photos courtesy of Audi