Is that a space? No. Is he coming out? Oh, just straightening up. Right… maybe we should try the second floor?

Parking can be one of life’s little frustrations. And it’s one that BMW is trying to eliminate with its latest technology. The Remote Valet Parking Assistant does just what you’d expect of a valet. When you arrive at your destination, you simply step out of the car and the onboard computer goes and parks it for you. All you need to do is tap a few buttons on your smartwatch.

It’s made possible by a system packed with sensors and lasers, which analyses the area and produces an accurate map of the car park. Once it’s identified a space, the technology eases the car in automatically while keeping a lookout for objects, people and other vehicles – before turning off the engine and locking the doors all by itself. And when you want to drive away again, you can summon the car using your smartwatch. Tell it when you’ll be ready, and it can even time its arrival precisely.
Sadly, right now the Remote Valet Parking Assistant is still at the prototype stage, being tested with the new i3. And BMW doesn’t go quite so far as to guarantee the car won’t crash, saying only that it offers the ‘possibility of entirely collision-free driving’ – which isn’t the most reassuring of promises… Nevertheless, the Remote Valet Parking Assistant is an encouraging step on the way to a driverless car.

This isn’t the first time that BMW has showcased the driverless technology. In both 2009 and 2011, it unveiled self-driving concept cars, and other companies like Tesla and Google also have cars with autopilot-like features. What no company has yet done, though, is to create a completely self-driving car that’s commercially available. And despite trials due to take place this year in the UK, it’s still some way off.

So it looks like you won’t be able to sleep on the drive to work just yet. But soon, at least, you won’t need to worry about finding a space when you get there.