At Stuttgart Airport, Bosch, Daimler and the car park operator Apcoa are starting the test operations of a completely driverless valet parking service. The cars do not require complex sensor technology to detect vehicle position and movement – this is embedded in the infrastructure.
The three companies have jointly developed an Automated Valet Parking (AVP) service. All the driver needs to do is get out of the car and start the service via a smartphone app. Then the vehicle will drive fully automatically into a suitable parking space in the P2 multi-storey car park at Stuttgart Airport. When he returns, he can call the vehicle back in the same way: The app starts the car, which then automatically drives from the underground car park to the drop-off and pick-up area.
The intelligence of the system lies largely in the infrastructure of the car park. Sensors are installed throughout the car park, which record the position of the vehicles and their movements and transmit them to a central server. This server calculates the instructions for safe driving and sends them to the vehicle via the communication technology also installed. The barriers for entry and exit from the car park also open automatically for the part-time robot vehicles.
Compared to the pilot phase, which started some two years ago, the technology supplied by Bosch has been modified: Instead of using lidar sensors, Bosch is now relying on fully visual detection by cameras (which are also supplied by Bosch).
Even if the parking process is not fully based on the vehicle’s own sensors and data processing, if any, the car still needs supporting communication technology and actuators: the vehicle must be able to correctly interpret external driving commands and implement them in real time with high accuracy. At present, this is only the case with the new Mercedes S-Class from Daimler; the corresponding feature is included in the list of options as “Intelligent Park Pilot”. This makes the vehicle the first in the world to be pre-equipped for a driving function of the second highest level of autonomy according to SAE Level 4, says Daimler.
Payment is automatic and contactless. The car park operator Apcoa, which would like to roll out this model worldwide, has integrated the necessary functions specifically into its digital payment platform Flow.
Test operation of the system has now begun. The aim is to test and optimise the smooth interaction between vehicle, infrastructure technology and car park operator. For vehicle users, the system should not only save time and increase convenience; the system will also allow better use of the available parking space because vehicles can be parked more densely – after all, there is no longer any need to plan in space to open the doors.