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GM’s Cars Will Drop Drivers Off, Park Themselves, And Return

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Parallel Parking Fail

So far, we have heard of vehicles that can park themselves (the latest is the 2012 Ford Focus — see video below), and vehicles that pick people up and drop them off (driverless pods). And now GM is working on a car that will drop the driver off, go and find its own parking space, and return when the driver wants it to.

Here is how it will work: The car will find the nearest parking place, even if it is several miles away from where the driver is going. When the driver is ready to get back in the car, he or she will contact it via a smartphone, and it will return. Reports say this system will save gasoline.

But, as Britt Liggett writes for, there are several unanswered questions:

First being, how does the car know better than you where the open spots are and how in the world is it going to feed the meter? […]

GM’s Electrical and Controls Integration Lab is working on this problem and many more. […]

The technology seems quite useful for the urban driver and for an efficient gas tank, but it seems to require more than just the technology in the car. A system like this would also require all urban parking spaces to have sensors that say whether they are open or not. What if the dreaded space was taken while your car was en route? Your solo car would just have to circle again, reducing your saved energy in the process.

Liggett reports that automated vehicles could be on the market as soon as the end of this decade, according to Nady Boules, the director of GM’s Electrical and Controls Integration Lab.

Readers of articles about this development have plenty to say, like “DennisBuller” in his tongue-in-cheek comment to Kevin Bullis’s Technology Review article:

Saves lives and Makes being a Drunk fun Again!

Thousands of people die in auto accidents a year.

Usually doing so while texting, eating a Big Mac while driving down the highway at 80 MPH. Steering with with their knee.

We need self driving cars.

Then it will be safe to text while eating a Big Mac; drunk; with low insulin level; with dementia.

Some readers posted sarcastic comments to articles about cars that find their own parking spaces. They asked why anyone would be so lazy that they don’t want to park their car without the car’s help, and then walk to their destination and get some exercise. A reader named “Spifnar” posted the following comment in response, below Rebecca Boyle’s article:

The advantages of a self driving car (of which parking itself somewhere else would be a small part) aren’t really for the average able bodied person. Also, an automatic car doesn’t need to drive better/safer than the best drivers among us to be useful, just the worst:

1) Drunks. Honestly, I can easily see this as a driving force (ho ho ho) getting legislation through that allows self driving cars. Get a DWI? Have your license downgraded to only being able to ‘drive’ a self driving car.

2) Vision/reflex impaired, elderly, handicapped, etc

3) People who want to eat/put on makeup/text/etc while driving

4) Trucking. Huge advantages here for a truck that can be auto-drive on the highway…allowing the driver to sleep on the boring stretches, and be human driven off the highway.

5) etc etc etc

The technical, safety and legislative hurdles are huge, and I don’t think we’ll see a legal self driving car for a long time. But the advantages of having the option [available] are huge.

And in another comment to the same article, “deronmoped” injects some humor:

What happens if the car decides to go off and goof around somewhere, play hooky.

You will find your car with all the other cars, drinking 30WT and honking at the girls at the local car lot.


Here is a video of a self-parking 21012 Ford Focus (that does not know how to drive around by itself and find its own parking space):

Image by thienzieyung, used under its Creative Commons license.


One Response to “GM’s Cars Will Drop Drivers Off, Park Themselves, And Return”


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