CES 2015: BMW’s laser-guided i3 makes debut

BMW's advanced automated parking system could be here in five years on the i3 and other models

BMW’s all-electric i3 has been shown for the first time with a laser-guided self-parking system at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

While BMWs, and many other cars, already offer self-parking systems that take the stress out of parallel or bay parking, this i3 will park itself in multi-storey car parks – and Auto Express went along for the ride.

• Self-driving cars: everything you need to know

The car features four laser sensors – one at the front, the back and on each side of the car – that scan the entire area around the car, building up a virtual image of its environment. Combined with detailed mapping of a multi-storey car park and a hefty computer processor in the boot of the car, the laser-guided i3 can be left at the entrance to a multi-storey and will drive off, find an appropriate space, and park itself.

And with wireless inductive charging also being shown at CES, it’s highly likely that the i3 could find somewhere to charge itself up, too.

When the user returns to the car park, they can use their smart watch to call the car back to them – literally with voice control.

All the time the car is driving autonomously, it’s scanning the area for potential obstacles. It’ll steer around non-moving objects or stop to wait for another car to pull out of a parking space.

The laser tech can also be used in everyday driving as part of what BMW calls 360-degree Collision Avoidance, which can even prevent the car being scraped down the side if the driver takes a turn too quickly – especially useful with low-mounted bollards.

Although the laser-guided i3 is purely a research vehicle at the moment, BMW experts predicted that the technology could be found in its cars by 2020.

Would you trust your car to park itself? Let us know in the comments section below...

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