I was invited to the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown LA to watch a Mercedes self park itself in the hotel’s valet operation. It was pretty impressive.
Created by Bosch, the software loaded into the Merc and the hardware installed in the garage took over and guided the vehicle from the valet area to a nearby parking location and then returned the car to the valet when called. It was controlled by an app on the owners cell phone.
According to Bosch representatives on site, what makes this unique is that the system does not use sensors in the car, but relies on sensors installed in the garage. This increases the flexibility of the system (the vehicle does not have to ‘map’ or know anything about the garage) and ensures the safety of staff and visitors on the ground in the garage. Onboard sensors cannot ‘see’ around corners or over steep ramps, however sensors in the garage overcome this issue.
These pilot demonstrations show the capabilities of the Bosch system. However the self park feature will not be available in the US until certain legislation is passed and the software has been installed at the time the vehicles are manufactured. Bosch is currently in negotiations with a number of car manufactures including Ford.
The system is installed and running at Stuttgart Airport in Germany.
To become an ‘everyday’ valet support program, the software needs to be installed at the time of a car’s manufacture, then the sensors need to be installed in the garage. The vehicle’s owner must then download the app, and it is good to go.
Valet’s needn’t rush out and look for new jobs just yet, a lot needs to happen before they will be replaced. I suggest this is a luxury item that will be attractive on high end vehicles in upscale locations. However, in the long term, the use of infrastructure based guidance (garage sensors rather than in vehicle sensors) may just solve problems inherent in self driving vehicles I mentioned above.
It’s a great first step.