The i3 research vehicle, which will be demoed at Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas at the beginning of January, is kitted out with four laser scanners, which can monitor the car's environment in real time. Data from the array of lasers is fed into both the car's experimental 360-degree crash avoidance system and fully automated Remote Valet Parking Assistant.
With the 360-degree collision avoidance system, the car is able to view all of its surroundings and avoid objects, such as pillars and walls in a car park. If the i3 is approaching an obstruction at too great a clip, the car can automatically brake, avoiding the object, it's claimed, with centimetres to spare. Should the driver steer away, the system will automatically disengage the auto braking system.
Thanks to its complement of lasers, as well as a digital map of the multi-storey car park that it will be in, the i3 research car's Remote Valet Parking Assistant is able to find an available parking space and slot itself in without any driver input.
A pre-loaded digital map is required because within a multi-level parking station GPS signal reception typically ranges between poor and non-existent. The i3 research vehicle is, BMW says, able to avoid any unexpected objects, including poorly parked cars.
The i3's electronic valet can be activated remotely via a smartwatch. When the driver enters the car park, the driver and any passengers can exit the vehicle and let the car park itself.
When their appointment is over, the i3 can be summoned via the driver's smartwatch. According to BMW, the system is able to estimate the time required by the driver to reach the meeting point, so the i3 can plan its drive back to avoid creating any unnecessary wait for either the driver or the car.
This is several steps beyond what the best parking assistance systems available today are able to achieve. Most self-parking systems currently on the market require the driver to initiate the system, drive past potential parking spots and once a suitable slot has been found, engage reverse and feather the brakes as the car steers itself in.