There’s Always Something New in Parking
Two well-known technology and transportation entities have achieved an important “first.” According to Bosch Worldwide, “Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority passed a law in 2021 allowing Level 4 autonomous driving in defined operating areas of public spaces giving way for Bosch and Mercedes-Benz’s driverless parking system to be implemented for commercial use.”
My eyes crossed a little when I wrote that, so the humanoid translation is that autonomous vehicles can now park themselves, with the appropriate programming and infrastructure, without human interference, in public.
Very soon, the APCOA parking garage at Stuttgart Airport will offer automated valet parking as part of the world’s first automated driverless valet parking service. Two important stipulations were included in the announcement: the function will be only available for certain Mercedes S-Class and EQS variants equipped with Intelligent Park Pilot, and initially only at the P6 parking garage at Stuttgart Airport, Germany.
The way it works is a driver enters the parking garage, gets out of the car, and sends the vehicle to a parking space using a smartphone app. Once the driver has left the parking garage the vehicle drives itself to its assigned space and parks. Later, the vehicle returns to the pick-up point in exactly the same way.
The process relies on the collaboration between Bosch’s intelligent infrastructure and Mercedes-Benz automotive technology. Bosch sensors in the parking garage monitor the driveway and its surroundings and guide the vehicle.
The technology in the vehicle converts the information it receives from the infrastructure into driving directions. This way, vehicles can even drive themselves up and down ramps to move between stories in the parking garage. If the sensors see an obstacle, the vehicle brakes and stops completely. Once the route is clear it continues on its way.
Sounds great. But it’s not an option for me yet – or for any non-Mercedes owner or parking customer outside Germany. It’s a highly specific intro to the parking industry and an intensely limited offering for the parking consumer. But still, it’s a development that seems to like a good indicator for widespread use in the future.
Not the immediate future, but someday, when Baby Boomers are long for the earth, people like me can no longer buy a regular car, and the tech generations and their children are more than happy to leave parking and many other tasks up to computers.
In addition to my razor-sharp instincts, there is further reassurance that this technology will move forward in implementation and use. Bosch and Mercedes, two companies with strong track records, have stated their determination to disseminate their driverless parking system. They have also emphasized the impact successful automated parking systems will have on increasing the use of autonomous vehicles.
“Driverless parking is a key aspect of automated mobility. The highly automated parking system we developed together with our partner Mercedes-Benz shows just how far we’ve already progressed along this development path. It will be with driverless parking that everyday automated driving will start,” says Dr. Markus Heyn, member of the Bosch board of management and chairman of the Mobility Solutions business sector. “From the outset, Bosch has taken the approach of making the infrastructure in parking garages intelligent. Accordingly, we have set standards in this area. In the future, our aim is to equip more and more parking garages with the necessary infrastructure technology – we plan to do several hundred of them worldwide in the next few years.”
I’m too old to love the idea of autonomous parking, but young enough to know these “far-fetched” ideas are going to be pretty mainstream – possibly within my lifetime.
If it’s inevitable, I had better get ready.
Considering the positives, I’d love to drop off my car at the gate, so to speak, and avoid the cranky pay-and-display machine and craggy pavement of the parking lot. I wouldn’t miss the dank, dark tunnels of the parking garage with the flickering lights, strange smells and imagined assailants in every corner. I’d feel more comfortable giving microchips access to my car than I would a polite, but breathless, stranger at the valet stand.
However, I can think of a hundred places I park where logistics and cost might make autonomous parking difficult – even when I do get that Mercedes.
Still, it’s exciting, and I enjoy hearing about technological advances that make sense to me.