Volkswagen Group isn't the first automaker to consider autonomous parking, but it could be the first to have it available on production vehicles.
VW Group is currently testing an autonomous parking solution that it believes could arrive on production cars as early as 2020. Using Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen vehicles, the system is currently being tested at Hamburg Airport in Germany.
"Autonomous parking can make an important contribution to creating convenient, stress-free mobility for our customers," said Johann Jungwirth, VW Group's Chief Digital Officer, in a statement."We therefore want to democratize the technology and make it accessible to as many people as possible."
The system is pretty simple. The garage has a bunch of pictorial markers that the autonomous system identifies and uses to navigate the garage. Since it's not extending that autonomy beyond the garage, it can rely on simpler things like pictures to get around. It will still rely on map data, but the pictures will help from an orientation standpoint.
The system will roll out in steps. First, it'll operate in dedicated areas where only autonomous cars can travel, so it doesn't have to worry about human-driven cars or pedestrians. It will then expand to that kind of mixed-use space. VW sees this technology extending to all manner of public parking lots, from airports to supermarkets.
Eventually, Volkswagen wants to lump additional services into the mix. After your car has parked itself, it can act as a repository for parcel delivery. A delivery service will receive a one-time key to open the car's trunk. It's just a bit safer than having a package sit on your doorstep all day. Porsche's working on a system that will use an automatic arm to charge an electrified vehicle after it's parked itself.
This is just the first step toward Volkswagen's end goal of proper public autonomy. Taking gradual steps like this prioritizes safety over deployment speed, because things can go south when companies try to rush headfirst into serious, complicated matters like autonomy.