Automated valet parking
Putting the latest automated technology to the test at IAA Munich.
The valet parking of tomorrow – where you climb out of the vehicle and it parks itself – blogger Sandra Gessner puts it to the test.
13 September, 2021
CARIAD is the Volkswagen Group’s automotive software subsidiary and developer of Automated Valet Parking (AVP)
As far as pet hates go, endless laps of parking garages looking for a space must rank right up there. Or a rare parking spot rendered next to ‘uninhabitable’ thanks to the woeful spacial awareness of other drivers.
But soon this will all be a thing of the past, at least that’s what the developers at CARIAD say – the Volkswagen Group’s automotive software subsidiary and developer of Automated Valet Parking (AVP) amongst numerous other systems.
Where better than the current International Motor Show in Munich to demonstrate the system in action, at the Munich Exhibition Centre’s ‘Messe West’ parking garage.
I’m meeting with Christian Feist, responsible for automated parking concept development at CARIAD, at the scene of the event. He picks me up in an Audi e-tron Sportback with CARIAD branding. We pull into the drop-off zone and get out. I use my key to lock the car, whip out my smartphone, and press the button in the app to park my car – and the e-tron Sportback rolls off very slowly on its own. The left, right, then left turn signals blink one after the other – the sign that the vehicle is now communicating with the parking garage.
I’m also impressed by what else will be possible in this parking garage of the future. Christian describes the services at the parking space:
“There are two charging robots, one on the ground, a second hanging from the ceiling, that will recharge your car while you stroll around the trade show.” How convenient! So I get my car back with a full battery. “Yes, and if you want, freshly washed too. For this purpose, there are two fully automatic car washes inside. And a security operator monitors everything to make sure your car is always safe and secure.” And what if I forget something in the car? “No problem, you can always go in and get your stuff out of the car.“
“AVP also offers people tangible benefits, because you save a lot of time, it’s incredibly convenient, and it’s the safest possible way to park your car. And we’re already thinking about linking parking with other services.”
“A kind of concierge at shopping malls, for example,” Christian says. “Imagine strolling through a bunch of different stores and boutiques, making some purchases – and having everything delivered to a designated pickup zone, where the car has been re-parked fully automatically. And all of your purchases are stowed there in your boot without you having to carry them. Something like this is entirely possible.”
Charging robots will recharge your car while you stroll around the trade show and you can even have it washed while you're away
We’re demonstrating automated valet parking type 2 here, where the vehicle receives the commands via a communications interface to the parking infrastructure
But other aspects are also important, according to the developers at CARIAD. The use of available parking spaces becomes much more efficient because the Audi drives directly to the vacant space detected by the system without making any detours. That in turn reduces consumption and also makes maximum use of the parking spaces available, fitting more cars into the same area as drivers and passengers no longer need that extra room to open doors and alight.
To understand all of this better, I have an appointment with Rudolf Leinfelder from CARIAD, who explains the key technical aspects to me:
“We’re demonstrating automated valet parking type 2 here. In this case, the vehicle must implement the driving commands safely and precisely. It receives the commands via a communications interface to the parking infrastructure. To ensure that the system works in as many parking garages and with different vehicle brands as possible later on, it is important that they all communicate via a standardised protocol. Being able to demonstrate this in the real world for once is the motivation behind this flagship project with many manufacturers and technology developers here in Munich.”
The million dollar question of course is when this technology be ready to ‘hit the streets’ and see real usage?
“From a technical standpoint, we’ve been able to do this for a long time,” says Feist. “But before we move from autonomous parking to autonomous driving, there's still a lot to do, especially in terms of safety.
“But parking garages are perfect as a precursor to further development, he says. “They’re actually the smallest cities in the world, with pedestrians, bike riders, skateboarders. So even if the car is moving slowly, it still has to be able to perform a lot of different tasks. It needs to be able to drive forward and backward – and brake immediately as soon as an obstacle appears.”
In the meantime, the exhibition centre has gotten really busy. Even here in the parking garage, which is only partly dedicated to the AVP demonstration, there are now a lot of people coming and going. Time to tell my Audi to come on back. I take my smartphone out of my pocket and use the app to instruct my Audi to return to the drop-off zone – and after just a few minutes, the car rolls right up. But before it makes the last short turn into the drop-off zone to my left, it stops – someone unexpectedly pops out between two parked cars pushing a fully loaded shopping cart. And then the car parks itself – and we’re ready for our next journey.
Parking garages are perfect as a precursor to further autonomous development – they’re actually the smallest cities in the world, with pedestrians, bike riders, skateboarders...
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