Total concentration navigating the narrow lanes, sweaty hands while maneuvering into the tightest of parking spots, and to top it off, you can’t open the door wider than a crack while getting out – parking in a parking garage is rarely a pleasure.
Being able to avoid this stress in the future would be a definite gain in comfort and mean noticeable progress in day-to-day life with a car. Volkswagen’s Group Research is working on this problem at top speed, because automated parking is considered one of the foremost candidates when it comes to realizing fully autonomous driving in daily life. Volkswagen is a pioneer in the area of parking assistance systems. Its customers have appreciated the advantages of this option for years now. However, in the future parking should be even easier and more comfortable for us: we’ll drive up to the garage, get out, tell the car to park itself, and have it drive autonomously into the parking garage. Parking fees will be debited electronically, and when we return to the garage, we’ll use an app to call our cars back to the drop-off point.
Helge Neuner, who heads Automated Driving for Group Research, notes: “Parking and the distances associated with parking lots and garages were never highlights for drivers, so automated parking is a particularly relevant customer wish. From a technical point of view it’s a simplified task, since the environment in a parking garage is less complex than road traffic and cars move at lower speeds. This is why automated parking will be the first place customers can experience the advantages of completely autonomous vehicles.”
Lower space requirements
However, there are also ecological, economical and urban planning arguments for automated parking. If there are no pedestrians in the building, it does not need pedestrian lanes, stairs or elevators. The traffic lanes can be designed more narrowly and around two square meters per parking spot can be saved when space is no longer needed to enter or exit the car. Operators of parking garages expect a space gain of more than 25 percent during a transitional phase with mixed use, and more than double this amount once operations are exclusively automated. Lower space requirements in parking garages mean lower construction costs and greater efficiency, and ultimately more green and recreational space in urban areas.
Volkswagen’s Group Research is also working on an innovation for electric vehicle owners that promises greater convenience: In the parking garage, mobile robots will connect the car with the power supply to charge its battery. Helge Neuner: “Clearly we have to consider how electric vehicles are charged if garages are not designed for people to enter them. Today’s wireless charging still faces limitations in transmission performance, so for the foreseeable future, charging via power cable will continue to offer advantages, especially for fast charging. A flexible charging robot that is programmed for a variety of systems could solve this problem.”
Automated parking is a win-win situation for drivers, parking garage operators and urban development as a whole. What obstacles still need to be overcome before series production can begin? Helge Neuner: “Fully automated parking is technically already possible – we have proved that as part of a funded project. However, there are still some infrastructural hurdles to overcome, such as the need for common technology standards that are adopted by as many vehicle manufacturers and parking garage operators as possible.”
Further development of the system is also already clearly defined at Volkswagen’s Group Research: Our next step is to realize automated parking on freely accessible traffic areas. However, for that we need the same technological prerequisites as for completely autonomous driving in a big city. Neuner: “But that’s what we all want: to drive to our destinations, have the car find its own parking spot, and come back when we need it.”