An iPhone app that parks your automobile

If you wish that you could get out of your car and let it park on its own, your dream has been fulfilled.

Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have developed a new app that lets your iPhone tell your car to park without you in it.

And the best thing about the Virtual Valet Parking App is that it will be affordable.

“You pull up to the kerb, push a button on your smartphone and the car takes care of everything else. Then you tell it to come back whenever you are done,” New Scientist quoted Aaron Steinfeld, the lead researcher for the project, as saying.

To find its own spot, the system uses a sensor suite similar to ones found in many luxury cars.

This includes a motion sensor that scans for moving cars and pedestrians, and a forward-facing laser rangefinder normally found in adaptive cruise control to determine the distance of objects in front of the car.

Information from these sensors is then fed to an onboard computer to plot the vehicle’s course. The user can watch the whole process from their phone.

“It works indoors, outdoors and could even work at your home,” Steinfeld said.
In experiments, the vehicle was able to navigate through a crowded parking structure, find an empty spot, and park all on its own.

And, Steinfeld said, the greatest appeal of the Virtual Valet Parking App is that it requires no change to existing parking facilities or infrastructure.

For the moment, the only car equipped for control by Virtual Valet is Carnegie Mellon’s modified Jeep Wrangler, which the researchers have named NavLab11. But Steinfeld hopes that major car manufacturers will adopt the technology.

The research will be presented at Auto Apps and Mobile Device Evolution 2012 this December in Berlin, Germany.

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