LAS VEGAS - Forget valet parking. The car of the future can find a spot for you and then pick you up.
"Imagine you are at a shopping center and you want the car to pick you up. That's exactly what it will do," Annie Lien, Audi Senior Engineer, told ABC News.
We witnessed it firsthand. At a demo at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Las Vegas, Audi set up a working demonstration of the technology. Press the Pickup button on the Audi app, and you can set the time at which you want the parked car to come pick you up. Tap the button again and it will turn on the ignition and come get you. No one in the driver's seat.
How does it work? Audi has been developing its own self-driving technology, which it prefers to call piloted parking or driving. (It says it wants to stress that humans can take control at any time.) The car uses twelve ultrasound sensors to navigate and avoid obstacles. It parks itself with a combination of sensors in the car, the garage and roads.
The hope is that parking garages will have computers that communicate with the car, telling it where there is open space. The car is able to make turns on its own and knows how to maneuver around the garage with external laser sensors.
The road to autonomous cars isn't a short one. Today Audi announced that it has become the first automaker granted a license to drive or operate autonomous cars in Nevada. Nevada passed a law last year making it legal to test self-driving cars in the state, and other companies, such as Google, have been granted licenses as well. Audi says it expects the technology it's working on to be commercially available in the next decade.
Until then, we'll continue to look for parking on our own.