Ford vehicles demonstrate how systems that are already available can automate parking, saving time and space.

Detroit Free Press

Ford self-driving vehicles are poised to begin a monthlong test of automated parking in a Detroit garage in an illustration of how self-driving cars may revolutionize the urban automotive experience.

The vehicles will demonstrate the system by automatically pulling in and out of parking spaces and avoiding obstacles, including pedestrians, other parked vehicles and stray objects as small as a glass of water or a cat darting through the structure.

The vehicles will use technology that’s already available on Ford vehicles, said Greg Stevens, Ford global manager of driver assistance technology.

Automotive technology supplier Bosch will equip the garage with Lidar, a light mapping technology used by self-driving vehicles, and other sensors — also using parts that are commercially available today. The company has already demonstrated similar technology in Germany, but this marks its first official demonstration in North America, Bosch Director of Mobility Solution Sales Kevin Mull said.

The demo isn’t open to the public.

“Automated valet parking,” which is how Ford and Bosch are describing the demonstration, could increase the garage’s capacity by 15%-20% because vehicles can be parked closer together if you needn’t leave space for the doors to open and people to enter and exit.

“It takes parking out of your life as a pain point,” Ford’s Stevens said.

When a driver pulls in, the driver is directed to stop on a designated spot near the garage’s entrance and exit their vehicle. The system then directs the vehicle to the closest empty spot. The vehicle uses its onboard sensors to park there. When the driver is ready to leave, the vehicle is summoned to meet them near the entrance.

In addition to freeing people from the hassle of parking, the system could direct electric vehicles to charging pads or send them to the apartment building’s entrance. It could also have vehicles arrange themselves for a quick exit after work or events like concerts and sports.

Parking development is a major issue for property managers in metropolitan areas, said Heather Wilberger, chief information officer at Bedrock, the garage owner. This sort of autonomous strategy can mean packing more cars into tighter spaces while alleviating issues like car door dings or dealing with someone who is double-parked. This is about retrofitting existing garages in ways that improve the consumer experience as well as improve the bottom line for garage owners as they fit more cars into less space, Wilberger said.

Fitting 20% more vehicles in existing decks just solves a practical problem, Mayor Mike Duggan said.

“This kind of feature is just one more message that the city of Detroit is the place where the future of mobility is going to be developed,” he said.

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