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back to article Robot cars can now do a Rockford into a parking space

At last robot-car boffins have achieved something useful: they have developed a vehicle which is capable of carrying out a J-turn of the sort favoured by stunt drivers, criminals and undercover operatives - precisely into a parking space. Here's a vid* uploaded by J Zico Kolter, PhD student at Stanford university's Computer …


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  1. jhermans


    Now we just have to wait for the robot version of Dukes of Hazzard ...

  2. My Opinion

    They're obviously not very confident it will work...

    ...otherwise they'd be parking it between their own cars, which can be seen briefly in the corner of the shot.

  3. Mr Sceptical

    ...and so it begins...

    Also, is there an app for that?

    You could have a hot-key on the dash - "Extreme Parking!"

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    "Bad luck fanbois"

    Not sure where the dig is aimed at, but my iPhone can view YouToob vids just fine...

    1. mccp

      Lewis Page probably has a bet on...

      The Fanbois comment seems to be a trademark troll on LP's articles, I assume he has a wager along the lines of 'I bet I can upset an Apple commentard at least once every article for a year'. So far, it's been slightly amusing, but really, getting a rise out of an Apple evangelist is really too easy to be that much fun.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        RE: Lewis Page probably has a bet on...

        Maybe next year his target next year will be Wintards?

    2. Simpson

      It's a conspiracy!

      Maybe one of you should drive to el reg and ask for Lewis Page. Then show him that your phone can in fact play the clip... That'll show him.

      Don't forget to bring the printouts of his articles, where you have highlighted all of the slights he has tossed at you and your phone.

      F'ing iDiots

  5. Lionel Baden


    Actually very usefull

    A step closer to true autaunomous vehicles.

    If the computer can control the car whilst it is "out of control" and get it back on track they should be able to do better than humans in a short peoriod of time !!

    although a computer shouldnt even get in the situation on needing to do a J turn !!!

  6. Blake St. Claire
    Thumb Down

    A J-turn?

    I'd call the parking maneuver a drift.

    A J-turn, as I know it, is just for reversing direction and leaving the way you came.

    1. Mike Flugennock


      Here in the Colonies, we learned to call that manuver a "U-Turn".

      You're right about that "Rockford" manuver being more of a "drift" than a "turn" -- not unlike what I see a lot of Grand Prix or F1 drivers often doing on tight corners/curves and hairpins, where they aren't so much "turning" in a normal fashion as they are using acceleration and steering to throw the car into a controlled slide through the curve.

      A cold one for the Stanford guys.

  7. Andrew Bush
    Paris Hilton

    Why park there?

    In the second vid 'more detailed explanation of the science', if the computer model is so smart why does it perform a crazy handbrake-turn-slide into a narrow space between two parked cars instead of just parking in one of those easy to drive into free spaces in the rank?

  8. Dazed and Confused

    @ "Bad luck fanbois"

    not if Google decide to do a Job's and ban it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    When it can do this on dry tarmac without all that equipment bolted all over the car then I'll start to be impressed.

    In all seriousness how can we tell from that video that they haven't just got a driver to make the maneuvre once and recorded his control movements? I'd like to see it tested where they park a couple of cars and simply point to the space on the device's screen and click the "park it there" button.

  10. Kingprawn

    Not so sure..

    If you look real close you can see his hands on the steering wheel just after the car spins! I think the robots are tricking us into thinking they're still dumb when in fact they've plotting against us as I type....arrggggg a drone has just appeared outside my window with a red blinking light!






    1. Emo

      Re: Not so sure.

      The guy is clearly sat in the right hand seat, while the steering wheel can be clearly seen on the wrong side (left hand side).

      What you see on the steering wheel is more likely the mechanical control to turn the steering wheel.

      1. Mike Flugennock

        Waddya mean, "wrong side"?

        Hey, them's fightin' words, Limey. (;^>

        But, seriously... I've always wondered about standard (stick) shifts in British cars... what do all those right-handed shifters (like me) do? And, are the gas/brake/clutch positions the same, or "mirror-imaged"?

        I often wonder how many accidents on British roads are caused by Americans still learning to drive on the other side of the road from the other side of the car...

        1. jake Silver badge

          @Mike Flugennock

          "what do all those right-handed shifters (like me) do?"

          My dad once put it "I got back from England, went to shift & rolled down the window!" ... Me, I solved the problem by getting right hand drive '65 Sunbeam Tiger and '48 MG-TC and '54 Morgan +4 to go along with my more "normal" left-hand drive fleet ... Now the only problem is remembering which side of the road to get into when turning. Generally, I look for roadsigns ... if I'm looking at the back, I'm on the wrong side :-)

          "And, are the gas/brake/clutch positions the same, or "mirror-imaged"?"

          Right foot is the loud pedal, regardless of culture. Brake in the middle, clutch on the left.

          Now, Melbourne turns and always get me all screwed up ...

  11. Tim #3


    That's a pretty lame effort. Really all it did was to reverse around a 180 degree corner then stop, giving it a bit of unnecessary opposite lock. Lets see it do it (a) at twice the speed and (b) finishing off the stunt by immediately pulling away fast (with the tyres smoking of course) so the car never is actually stopped. Oh, and where was Daisy Duke?

  12. Stevie Silver badge


    It is an outrage that in all the years Hollywood has been assaulting us with Telly-to-Big-Screen revivals, we have yet to see The Rockford Files ruined forever by a cheesy script and "awesome" CGI.

  13. Frank Bough

    *These are Flash vids from YouTube. Bad luck, fanbois


  14. fatchap

    Not a J Turn

    The point of the J Turn is to maintain some momentum in the direction of travel despite rotating the orientation of travel. The manoeuvre performed here would be rubbish at getting away as you end up stationary in between two cars!

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Well, technically not...

      ...but it's really just a variation on the "Rockford Turn" applied to parking instead of escaping from bad guys.

      Of course, once four-wheel steering becomes more practical and widespread, the whole Rockford Manuver issue will be pretty much academic. (Damn, I wish to hell they'd taught me that in Driver's Ed instead of that regular old lame-assed parallel parking technique)

  15. vincent himpe

    that's what i call

    applied physics !

  16. BristolBachelor Gold badge


    So can the "robot driver" claim that it was always in control of the vehicle (showing the equations and numbers to prove it), and so get away with doing this type of thing without the police complaining?

    Oh and I didn't know that I was a "fanboi", but I guess I must be, because IE said "An error occureed, please try again later".

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    And in a Passat too!

    Can't really imagine all the other VW Passat owners in Sainsbury's car park ticking the option list for this.

    Do they call it Park Assist 2.0? *

    But I'd like to see Stanford and VW do that with a Bentley on full candle. That would be quite visual.

    Anyway, good luck to all of them. I like this. It looks like the perfect engineering research project, a lot of fun and then a serious control system underneath. Are they going to put this in as a final flourish when they cross the finishing line in the next DARPA Challenge Race?

    Beats the hell out of all that dull but worthy R&D on squeezing another dozen yards out of a gallon of diesel.

    (* for those who might not know, Park Assist is the VW name for the optional gizmo that senses and steers their cars into parallel parking spaces in the boring old left-right-right-left way).

    1. Chemist

      Re : And in a Passat too!

      We've got Park Assist in our Touran although the model just came with it - we'd never have paid specifically for it.

      Never used it or indeed plan to. The front and aft sensors can be useful for tight situations though.

    2. Mike Flugennock

      Lest we forget the most important question...

      ...when will this feature be perfected well enough to include on the next Mars Rover? Whee-hahh.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Mark my words

    One of these names will be rolling across the screen after Mythbusters one day... The ultimate RC car. Even the Bearded One has to be impressed by this.

  19. Ralph B


    And the drone replied:




















  20. Galidron

    Could be handy

    From what I've seen in parking lots, most people can't park between two lines when they aren't under any pressure to do so quickly.

  21. Giggymon


    Until I see the car "parking" itself without the driver's hands on the steering wheel I will have to be marked a sceptic. Watch the clip and the drivers hands are clearly on the wheel during the slide up to the end of the "parking" demonstration.

  22. jake Silver badge

    I may be alone ...

    ... but I, personally, have no interest in cars driving (or parking) themselves. The research is quite useful, but putting it into operation for the general public, not so much.

    On the other hand ... maybe at some point in the future, anyone who has used the auto-park "feature" more than once will have their license yanked for being too stupid to be behind the wheel :-)

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Parking radar?

      I don't know how widespread it is in the rest of the world, but in the US, the automakers are still sort of tentatively introducing parking radar-assist as a sort of exotic feature on your more high-end vehicles, along with rear-view cameras.

      (Hell, I don't know if they even teach parallel parking in Driver's Ed anymore...)

  23. Richard Porter

    Doing a Rockford?

    Ah, yes, but can it do a Russ Swift though?

    Btw vids no prob on a Mac.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Jobs Horns

      Btw vids no prob on a Mac

      but for how long? its nice to know that it could be gone at any minute isn't it.

      *you never actually buy a Mac, you only agree to let steves box live with you.

  24. Robert Heffernan

    Awesome, but...

    While this is an Awesome display of how well automated driving is getting, they really need to take some time and get rid of all the crap on the roof of the car and pack it into some nice neat package that fits into the lines of the vehicle... All the equipment reminds me of the roof of "Ecto-1" (The car in Ghostbusters)

    1. Mike Flugennock

      I'm sorry, but... Someone Of A Certain Age, I've been reading in damn' near every other issue of Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Road&Track and other mags since at least the mid-'60s about how we're going to have cars that drive themselves Any Day Now. It's always scared the piss out of me... I mean, c'mon, who's programming the autonomous driving routines in those cars, anyway?

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