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Soon your Volkswagen won’t need you to park

Hate wasting time looking for parking at the mall or in a multi-level parking garage? Take heart: a new technology perfected by Mercedes-Benz and currently being tested by Volkswagen could soon free you from that drudgery.

The Volkswagen Group, which includes Porsche and Audi, is testing its new autonomous parking system at the Hamburg airport, in Germany. The plan is to begin introducing the technology in new VW models beginning in 2020.

In the view of the automaker, autonomous parking represents one of the next steps on the path to fully autonomously driving vehicles.

"Autonomous parking can make an important contribution to creating convenient, stress-free mobility for our customers. We therefore want to democratize the technology and make it accessible to as many people as possible."

- Johann Jungwirth, Volkswagen Group Chief Digital Officer

At the outset, the system being fine-tuned by Volkswagen will be usable in multi-level parking garages, in which only autonomous cars with digital cards will be allowed. They will use visual cues to orient themselves and move around. Vehicle data is managed by a central module. As the technology evolves, eventually autonomous vehicles will be able to circulate among human-driven vehicles and find place to park themselves.

Volkswagen is also working on systems that will eventually allow vehicles to go on their own to do the groceries for their owners. As well, robots will take care of automatically recharging electric vehicles once they are parked.

If it sounds like science fiction, know that the technology to make this all happen already exists, and the current testing is merely about fine-tuning it. The bigger question is how it will be received by consumers. That, to be honest, is a whole other question.