Staff Car Report: How the BMW i3 Parks Itself

The BMW i3 can park itself. Something that has unintended consequences.

In the video below, and, I apologize for the near ‘double-rainbow’ excitement (cut me some slack, I’m a techie with a new toy) but, the feature you’re about to see is something that I didn’t realize that the car could do. It’s probably something that I might never do outside of my driveway but, it has an unintended consequence:

[youtube id=”akddTDOATBY”]

As you can see, parallel parking is now a case of looking for a spot, engaging the system, cruising past then, after turing on the indicator, simply holding onto the Park button until it’s all over.

By the way, it can apparently squeeze itself into a spot only 22″ longer than the car itself.

Here’s the same event shot again from outside:

[youtube id=”WHsePeN9yek”]

And, just so you know, all that back and forth it does, that’s all ‘it’ doing that. It’s clearly a little over zealous about getting it just right as you can see from the multiple forward-backwards shuffles that it does!

Ok, so, neat party trick or actually useful?

Well, I’m not sure when I’ll use it in the real world, after all, I live in a land of ‘parking lots’ the size of small English towns and as Alicia Silverstone’s character Cher famously said in ‘Clueless’ “What’s the point? Everywhere you go has valet.”

However, I’m pleased to say that I’ve found a real world use for the feature – Insurance cost.

By using the circle of sensors it uses to assess potential parking spots, the BMW i3 can also detect road hazards when on the move. This data is relayed to the dashboard in the form of read warning lights and even going as far as pre-loading the brakes if a pedestrian walks up to the curb too quickly! The same technology also allows the i3 to drive ‘feet off’ in traffic right down to zero and back up to highway speeds as long as you keep your hands on the steering wheel.

All of these active safety features have netted a reduction in my annual premium with Liberty Mutual Insurance company – a few percent in fact! Not all companies recognize these benefits yet but, in time I expect the competitive landscape and real-world reduction in accidents to lower premiums across the board.


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  • vdiv

    Certainly enjoyed that, especially with the “freaky” reaction to it. :)nCan the i3 also back in and park in a perpendicular spot?

    • Michael Thwaite

      Do you know, I don’t know, I’m going to find out though…

  • Dennis Pascual

    Michael,nnnI’m glad to see it worked for you. During one of my many i3 Test Drives, we used the feature on one of the Orange Test cars and it scraped the wheels on the curb.nnnGlad to see it work better for you.

    • Michael Thwaite

      From what I can guess, I don’t think that the car can ‘see’ the curb particularly, I think that it sees the other cars and aligns itself to them. If they’re parked on the curb, the i3 might try to do the same. I’ll see if I can find out from BMW.

      • Dennis Pascual

        That makes a lot of sense. GIGO…. Something else to be mindful of then.

  • Alex Polanco

    Can the parking assistant also help you exit a tight parking spot?

    • Michael Thwaite

      Yes, using the front and rear proximity sensors it’s actually much easier to get out of a tight spot knowing that you won’t scrape the other car.

  • jamcl3

    Michael, how many EV’s do you have now? Heidi and I still have our two Thinks.