Technology may soon eliminate one of life's little annoyances: looking for a parking space. That's the vision of French auto parts maker Valeo, which demonstrated Park4U—automated valet parking—at an intelligent-vehicle conference in Detroit yesterday, the AP reports. The system kicks into action when the driver gets to a parking deck—it pinpoints an open space, then fires up ultrasonic sound-wave sensors, 360-degree cameras, and a laser scanner to drive itself at 3mph to the space, then back itself in safely. All of this can be put into action with just a thumb and a smartphone; a driver can even watch the process on his phone. "The car is able to do a much better parking maneuver than we as humans," says a Valeo project manager.
Park4U's benefits are already being touted: less congestion, more efficient parking, and, of course, driver happiness. (The car even returns itself to you when you're ready to leave.) But a fully automated system is a decade away, and there are many obstacles in Valeo's way, one expert tells the AP. Driverless cars are allowed on roads in only nine states—and just for testing. There are also the pesky matters of cybersecurity, government regulations, and liability to iron out. And the auto industry is shoving elbows with cellphone giants for the bandwidth space required for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. Experts remain hopeful, however: "Driving around looking for a space is not dead yet. But it will be," one says. (Read more vehicle stories.)