The days of searching for a spot and struggling to fit your car in it could be numbered, because Ford is now showing what it’s like to leave the parking to a robot driver.
In a garage in downtown Detroit on Wednesday, Ford and auto parts supplier Bosch showed how automated valet parking could change one of the most annoying parts of driving.
Using a connected Ford Escape that has Ford’s Co-Pilot360 driver-assistance system, a smartphone app, and a “smart” garage equipped with Bosch’s sensors and self-driving infrastructure, the car was able to park itself and later pull out of the spot. The car’s modem and a server in the garage were communicating with each other to safely pull the car in and out of the space.
Here’s the valet service in one of Bedrock real estate firm’s garages in Detroit that was retrofitted for the autonomous parking experience:
Drivers pull up to a designated area in the garage and then can get out of the car and let the app and connected car do the rest. To pick up the car, the driver returns to the same space and requests the car from the app. So it’s like a valet, but with no people involved.
The car will automatically stop if a pedestrian or other obstacle is in its path. While in the garage the car is traveling at slow speeds.
Bosch already showed how autonomous parking works with Mercedes-Benz vehicles in a German parking structure last year. Now it’s North America’s turn to see what it’s like to get out of the car and forget about the rest.
This is the first autonomous parking service of its kind in the U.S. But Tesla does have an autonomous “Smart Summon” feature on its vehicles that works in parking lots and driveways as long as the driverless, self-driving car is on a private road.
Bosch and Ford noted that with an autonomous parking system you can fit 20 percent more vehicles in the space. Without humans getting in and out you can park vehicles closer together and more efficiently.
Demonstrations of the autonomous valet service will continue throughout September at this garage for building tenants and for other private groups. After the month of demos ends, it’ll be up to the companies to see if this could become the new way of parking.