Mercedes is first OEM to offer level 4 automated valet parking
Drive in to the parking garage, get out, and send the car to a parking space just by tapping on a smartphone screen: it's about to become reality in Stuttgart and has more added value than you might think.
Autonomous driving in low-to-zero conflict conditions is materialising. Daimler and tech partner Bosch today announced they have received approval from the Stuttgart regional administrative authority for driverless parking without human supervision. The SAE Level 4 system is to be in daily use in the Mercedes-Benz Museum parking garage in Stuttgart.
Indeed, Mercedes cars will be collected and returned to its driver independently, using a smartphone app and without a safety driver. Bosch will supply the infrastructure, Daimler the vehicle technology.
Towards mass production
From the very beginning, Bosch and Daimler’s top priority for the driverless parking service was safety. In the concept, the developers defined how the driverless vehicle detects pedestrians and other cars in its path and reliably comes to a halt when it encounters an obstacle. They also set up secure communications between all system components and took steps to ensure the reliable activation of the parking manoeuvre.
Interestingly, it’s not just the car’s sensors that do the work. Bosch sensors in the parking garage monitor the driving corridor and its surroundings and provide the information needed to guide the vehicle. The technology in the car converts the commands from the infrastructure into driving manoeuvres. This way, cars can even drive themselves up and down ramps to move between stories in the parking garage. If the infrastructure sensors detect an obstacle, the vehicle stops immediately.
The objective of this pilot is to have this parking technology ready for mass production as soon as possible. It would be reasonable to assume the next-gen S Class will have the honour to inaugurate this feature when it is launched in 2020.
Less time and fuel wasted, more convenience and safety
Today, finding a parking spot can be real time and fuel consuming. Entering the garage, driving around to search for an empty space, parking the car, walking to the exit: it can take anything between one minute and a quarter of an hour depending on the size of the parking garage and the occupancy. Collecting the car equally eats a few minutes out of your busy schedule.
This is where automated valet parking can be of added value. It saves time, can reduce the amount of energy (fuel or electricity) wasted while you look for a spot and adds convenience. It can also save costs in the shape of parking damage: who else can better park a car than the car itself? Finally, there is the safety aspect. Retrieving your vehicle in a large, barely illuminated garage can be a daunting and sometimes dangerous experience. With atuomated valet parking, you can safely wait at the exit in the company of other people.
Less parking space needed
Cars that can park themselves can be put side to side with less space between them - the driver and the passengers don't need to get out. That means you need less space in total - or that you can park more cars on the same surface. Parking garage owners could even consider lowering the ceiling and stacking cars with just 20cm of clearance.
Gatwick airport already plucks the benefits of automated parking. They have got Stan, a parking robot that scans the vehicle to determine its size, lifts the vehicle onto its platform and ferries it to a spot where it will fit. Stan will also remember the passenger’s itinerary so the car is ready when they arrive back at Gatwick. Stan can park 270 vehicles on 170 standard parking spots. The difference with Mercedes' automated valet feature is that the parking robot is not designed to operate in environments with human drivers. It only works in closed-off conflict-free areas - at least today.