Thanks to a prototype gizmo called Virtual Valet App (for iPhone and Android), now you can relive your James Bond movie (Tomorrow Never Dies) and control your car using your smartphone and watch it let your car park itself. How often do you find yourself in a heavily crowded parking lot with no parking space and realize you are late for an important meeting and kind of wish if you could just run for the meeting and your car could find an empty spot and park itself — on its own. Thankfully, now there is this app for that!
Researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have developed ‘Virtual Valet‘ that lets your iPhone tell your car to park while you are not in it. “You pull up to the kerb, push a button on your smartphone and the car takes care of everything else,” says Aaron Steinfeld, the lead researcher for the project. “Then you tell it to come back whenever you are done.“
To find the car’s own spot, the Virtual Valet app 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.
From these sensors data is then fed to an on-board computer to calculate the vehicle’s course. The car owner can watch the whole process from their phone. “It works indoors, outdoors and could even work at your home,” according to Steinfeld.
Virtual Valet iPhone/Android App in Action [Video]
In experiments, the vehicle was able to navigate through a crowded parking structure, find an empty spot, and park all on its own.
Fair Warning: However, self-driving cars have been licensed in only three US states – California, Nevada and Florida – and it’s unclear how this app would mesh with self-driving laws. Until these questions are settled, your insurance provider might balk at covering a ding from a parking incident.