What do you hate most about driving? The answers may vary slightly, but nearly everyone agrees that circling for a parking spot and being stuck in snarling traffic are as bad it gets behind the wheel of a car. To solve that problem as well as the struggles of electric vehicle drivers who need a plug, Volkswagen is developing a new system of robo-parking and EV charging that will make everyone a fan of autonomous cars.
Volkswagen’s plans are as ambitious as they are practical for anyone tired of paying the valet and enraged by the shortage of plugs for your electric car. In a company statement, the automaker detailed its “V-Charge” system that has cars autonomously park while you go about your business. Think of it as the robo-valet that sweats the parking spot while you stroll through the entrance of your destination.
Meanwhile, the car senses obstacles, pedestrians, other cars and everything else it will need to avoid, even without the help of GPS that can go haywire in a parking garage. If you’re operating an electric vehicle like the VW e-Golf, V-Charge also hones in on an available parking spot offering automatic battery charging. If need be, the car will wait in a regular spot until the charge spot opens up, then move into position and start restoring the battery.
When the battery is full, it moves back to a regular spot until you are ready to leave, at which point you use the app to call the car to your location and get on your way. This technology may seem futuristic on some levels, but Volkswagen says the technical aspects are already in place to deploy V-Charge in the near future.
The vehicle Volkswagen uses for V-Charge testing is based on the e-Golf, the automaker’s first pure EV. Wide-angle camera with 3D technology, ultrasound sensors, and digital maps provide the framework for this robo-valet to park and charge your car while you go about your business or enjoy yourself with the tedious aspects of driving settled.
In effect, Volkswagen is trying to slay a double-headed monster of near-future driving with a single solution. As with other smart applications of autonomous driving, V-Charge in no way compromises the thrill-of-the-road, wind-in-your-hair aspects of car ownership. Sheryl Connelly, the Ford Motor Company Futurist, recently noted in an Autos Cheat Sheet interview how we sometimes forget the dullest aspects of driving and how autonomous cars can help.
Instead of sitting in traffic and slapping the steering wheel in frustration, drivers could let autonomous cars do the boring job of handling a work commute. When you want to drop the top and feel the wind in your hair, you would give the computer the day off and hit the road for driving the old-fashioned way. Otherwise, why not handle work emails or watch a video from the back seat?
Electric vehicle drivers now preoccupied with low-range plug-in cars would likewise welcome this advanced system for valet-style battery charging while your car sits in the lot. If it were in operation today, it would make EV adoption that much easier in urban centers.
V-Charge may have a long way to go, but we can already see how it makes autonomous driving more friend to the driver than enemy of cruising in your favorite ride. Let’s hope Volkswagen puts it on the fast track.