Let’s face it: parking sucks. From endlessly searching for a spot during peak traffic times, to performing surgeon-esque maneuvers in order to fit into a tight space, it’s always a nightmare.
My dream is a world where my car will drop me off, park itself, and then pick me up whenever I want.
“Come down to Earth, Ioanna,” you might say, “it’ll never happen.”
But you’d be wrong. Because my dream is coming true as we speak.
The technology is known as automated valet parking (AVP) — and it doesn’t even need full self-driving functionality. A modern vehicle equipped with electric power steering, electronic shifting, and connectivity capabilities is good enough.
We’ve investigated the companies deploying AVP and where they are with the technology. Let’s dive right in.
Part of the show’s parking garage was transformed to demonstrate how CARIAD’s AVP uses physical infrastructure to enable autonomous car parking.
The parking garage and the vehicle are interconnected via a standardized communications interface. A kit is installed in the car. Then, thanks to the sensors, cameras, and radars installed all over the designated area, the garage itself monitors vehicle movement, feeding it information throughout.
For drivers, the process looks seamless. First off, they reserve a parking spot through the AVP app. Once they arrive at the garage, they stop at a designated parking zone, where they leave their car. Through the app, they can initiate the parking process, and the car takes care of all the rest.
The drivers stay connected to their car through the app. They can notify it when they need to be picked up again from the transfer zone, or they can ask for a charging or washing service within the parking garage.
And yes, the car will also do that independently.
The idea behind STEER is very similar to CARIAD’s. It offers an automated valet parking kit that can be installed in your car.
Your vehicle can park itself using Level 4 autonomous parking capabilities — but only at designated STEER garages.
Here’s how it works:
You can already pre-order the kit, and upon submitting your interest the company will notify you if your vehicle is compatible.
Bosch, Mercedes-Benz, and parking garage operator APCOA have teamed up to create their own AVP, which they are already testing in Stuttgart Airport’s P6 car lot.
“Users can reserve a parking space via an app and register their license plate number and preferred payment option,” explains Simon Laubenberger, the project’s head at Bosch.
A camera scans the license plate and raises the barrier gate automatically when the user approaches the entrance. Then, the user pulls into the garage, gets out at the drop-off point, and activates the app to send the car on a fully automated search for a parking space.
The Mercedes S-Class that’s being used as a test vehicle isn’t an AV, but its park assist system features a special add-on module with a Wi-Fi interface.
This enables the car to communicate with — and receive driving commands from — the parking garage’s automated valet parking server.
Specifically, 180 cameras installed on the ceiling send images and metadata to the designated server, which, in turn, uses a digital map to guide the S-Class through the parking structure.
Bosch is also active in the United States. It’s working on AVP with Ford, car-rental firm Enterprise, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), and the American Center for Mobility at the Detroit Smart Parking Lab.
You can check out the demo video below:
What’s the takeaway here?
The tech for automated valet parking exists(!), but it’s being hindered by the delayed rollout of autonomous vehicles.
For this reason, companies are using infrastructure-based intelligent systems until the cars themselves are able to undertake the entire process: summoning, driving, and parking.
This means that AVP technology is still limited to designated parking spaces.
Even so, the tech can still bring significant benefits in the short term: no more waiting lines within car lots, no more scratches, and no more being boxed into a tiny space between two vehicles.
And most notably, AVP would give us all the freedom to just leave our cars at a designated zone and just get on with our day.
Okay, my dream isn’t a reality yet — but it’s coming far sooner than I thought it would.
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