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The tiresome search for parking spaces at Stuttgart Airport is set to end soon, because parking operators Apcoa, Bosch and Mercedes-Benz want to make cars driverless and fully automated in the future. To this end, Automated Valet Parking (AVP) is to be developed to production readiness. There is one catch, however: for the time being, only owners of the new Mercedes S-Class can enjoy this service. The S-Class is – with the necessary special equipment – the world’s first series-produced vehicle to be equipped with the INTELLIGENT PARK PILOT, a driving function with the second highest level of autonomy after SAE, Level 4.

“With the new S-Class, not only driving but even parking becomes a luxury,” says Dr. Michael Hafner, Head of Automated Driving at Mercedes-Benz AG. During the test run in the pilot parking garage P6 at Stuttgart Airport, the companies are testing the interaction of S-Class vehicle technology with the intelligent infrastructure from Bosch and the digital “Flow” platform from parking garage operator Apcoa. Ticket and cash are no longer necessary. The aim of the test is “to test the smooth interaction of vehicle, infrastructure technology and parking garage operator and to adapt it optimally to the customer.”

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Intelligent infrastructure

For the Automated Valet Parking pilot project, a spacious drop-off and pick-up area will be set up directly behind the entrance to the P6 parking garage, where AVP users will be able to park their vehicles in the future. Instead of looking for a parking space, they can check in at the terminal while their car is parked independently in the basement. “Automated Valet Parking is a real gain in comfort and time for our passengers. This is especially true if they are in a hurry and want to get rid of their car quickly at the airport,” says Walter Schoefer, CEO of the Stuttgart Airport GmbH. During the test phase there will initially be two parking spaces for each self-parking vehicle. Later, with the start of the planned driverless series operation and increasing demand, additional parking spaces will be added.

According to the operators, new video cameras from Bosch will be used for the first time in the pilot parking lot instead of the LIDAR sensors used so far. “These cameras will detect vacant parking spaces, monitor the driving corridor and its surroundings and detect obstacles or people in the way. In addition, a special computer center will be installed in the parking garage that will calculate the route of vehicles to a free parking space. “Our intelligent parking garage infrastructure is the basis for driverless parking of the future,” says Christoph Hartung, member of the divisional board of management of Connected Mobility Solutions at Bosch.

Cameras and “Flow”

Thanks to information from the cameras, the cars will not only be able to park, but even drive independently within the parking lot. They will automatically come to a standstill in the event of unexpected obstacles and can also move on narrow ramps and thus move between different floors.

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“Flow,” the digital platform from the parking garage operator Apcoa, plays an important role in driverless parking at Stuttgart Airport. It already handles such things as the reserving of parking spaces, contact-free entry and exit and fully automated payment and invoicing. Drivers no longer have to buy a ticket that they have to pay for at the parking machine because the system recognizes the customer’s vehicle and opens the barriers automatically. “Apcoa aims to be the first parking operator to fully support and enable automated parking services based on AVP technology in one of its parking lots,” says Frank van der Sant, Chief Commercial Officer of Apcoa Parking Holdings GmbH.

Goal: More vehicles and more parking garages

As soon as more appropriately equipped parking garages are available and AVP operation is legally permitted, there will even be a driverless pick-up and delivery service for cars, saving customers the trip to their vehicle. The conditions for this are already in place. “In the future, we want to make AVP available to other customers at selected Apcoa locations,” says van der Sant. With an increasing proportion of driverless and fully automated parking services, up to 20 percent more vehicles will fit in the same space in future. In addition, narrow, remote and therefore unattractive parking areas would be particularly suitable for driverless parking.

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However, the prerequisites for this brave new world of automated parking on a broad basis are not only the necessary infrastructure in many parking garages and, of course, a legal permit for AVP operation. The necessary conditions would also have to be in place in cars outside the luxury segment.