Parking Tech May Improve Your Driving Experience

And it could do more than just park your car

  • Automated parking systems let you take your hands off the wheels when trying to get into tight spots. 
  • Mercedes recently demonstrated an automated valet parking system for its EQS sedan models. 
  • The Mercedes system uses sensors installed in a garage that communicate with the vehicle and guide its maneuvering.
A Mercedes-Benz test vehicle during an autonomous parking test in a parking garage.

Mercedes-Benz

Thanks to new technology, the agony of scraping your car against the curb while parallel parking may soon be a thing of the past. 

Mercedes showed off an automated valet parking system in which its EQS sedan and future vehicles can park themselves. The system could herald a future in which most cars offer fully automated when parking. 

"For people who might have safety concerns walking alone in parking garages, this technology allows [them] to get in and out of their cars near a clear entrance with greater visibility," Sam Morrissey, the executive director of Urban Movement Labs, which advises on transportation solutions, told Lifewire in an email interview. 

Park Thyself

Mercedes showed off automated valet parking using its existing hardware preinstalled in vehicles such as the S-Class and EQS in Germany/Europe with the required optional equipment. The car interacts with the Bosch intelligent infrastructure installed in a parking garage to enable the vehicle to drive and park itself.

Sensors installed at the building communicate with the vehicle and guide its maneuvering through the garage. The goal is for the driver to park their car in a designated drop-off area of the parking facility, and after all passengers have exited, they start the parking procedure using a smartphone app. 

The sensor system in the car park checks whether a suitable space is available or was already reserved for the vehicle. If so, the Automated Valet Parking infrastructure confirms the handover of the car from the driver to the app, and they can leave the car and depart. 

The car then starts automatically and moves driverless to its parking space with the help of the infrastructure installed in the parking facility. Upon return, the driver can have the car drive to a designated pick-up area by smartphone command. The company claims that the systems result in less time searching for parking spots and walking from the parking garage to their destination. 

"Our vision is that getting time back is a key component of the luxury experience our customers are looking for. The EQS gives you time back by driving itself in traffic jams on highways, but with Intelligent Park Pilot, it may also be able to park itself." Philipp Skogstad, the CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, said in the news release. "Intelligent Park Pilot is a feature that together with the required infrastructure enables an automated valet service that gives customers even more comfort and relief in everyday life."

Stress-Free Parking? 

Self-parking cars may be more widespread in the future. Seoul Robotics is partnering with BMW to develop a hands-free parking system. The setup uses a network of sensors and computers on infrastructure that guides vehicles autonomously without requiring sensors to be placed on the cars themselves, unlike the one used by Mercedes.  

"By placing sensors equipped with 3D perception software around vehicles—like on traffic lights, buildings, and highway overhangs—the system can fully capture the environment and communicate with other sensors and the 4/5G systems that come standard on vehicles today," HanBin Lee, the CEO of Seoul Robotics, said in an email interview. 

Someone holding a phone displaying the Mercedes-Benz app used for automated parking.

Mercedes-Benz

The new parking system is currently in the early stage of deployment with BMW to automate last-mile fleet logistics at one of their manufacturing facilities in Germany. The system guides vehicles from the factory floor to a parking facility where they're housed before moving to dealerships. "However, this system could navigate any make or model of vehicle so long as it's equipped with a connectivity system," Lee said. 

Lee said his company's approach could automate vehicles from many vantage points, such as behind a truck and around corners, and predict trajectories, thus eliminating blind spots, a current challenge for on-vehicle autonomous systems. 

"This broad understanding of the environment and surrounding activity reduces collisions and creates a more reliable process," he added. "Furthermore, this system is sophisticated enough to handle the movement of hundreds of vehicles simultaneously without any added cost, ensuring vehicles can drive slower or take longer, safer routes which can further prevent accidents."

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