How we will park in the future

It is time-consuming and bad for the environment: finding a parking space in the city is a problem. Thanks to networking and automation, this will soon change.

Drivers in Germany spend an incredible 560 million hours each year trying to find a free parking space. This was the result of a study commissioned by the Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). The search for a parking space takes a toll not only on drivers’ nerves, but also on the environment. If this process could be made more efficient, up to 125 million liters of gasoline, 78 million liters of diesel, and 500,000 tons of the greenhouse gas CO2 could be saved annually, according to the study conducted by the economic research company Prognos.

These figures show how important optimizing the search for a parking space is for drivers and the environment. “Our vision is to improve people’s quality of life by making parking simpler,” says Dr. Rolf Nicodemus, head of the Connected Parking project at Bosch. The company has identified this topic as a “pain point”, a pressing customer need, and is now investing a lot of time and energy into solving parking issues. A total of around 2,500 engineers at Bosch are currently working on automated driving and parking.

The goal of Nicodemus and his team: by no later than 2020, mobility will be about getting from A to B again, and not about searching for free parking spaces. “In the future, you will be able to get off at your destination and the vehicle will autonomously search for a parking space in the parking garage,” he explains. To make this vision reality, Bosch is focusing on the automation of parking as well as the networking of cars with each other and with the infrastructure.

The company is working on various applications of these technologies. One of them is automated valet parking. “We connect the intelligent infrastructure in the parking garage with intelligent vehicles”, says Nicodemus. He states that a pilot project will start before the end of the decade. Developers are further along with active parking space management. With this technology, sensors are installed in the center of a parking space. They detect whether it is free or occupied and send this information to the Bosch Cloud, where the data is analyzed. The result is a real-time parking map that drivers can use in a smartphone app or access on the internet.

Source: Bosch

Source: Bosch

A pilot project in Stuttgart has already installed 2,500 such sensors in a total of 15 Park & Ride parking lots. Drivers will be able to see which Park & Ride parking lots have free parking spaces using an app and the website of the Stuttgart Public Transit Association (VVS). In the greater Stuttgart area, Bosch and Daimler are testing another solution which will allow drivers to save time and reduce stress when searching for a parking space: so-called community-based parking turns cars into parking space search engines. The ultrasonic sensors installed in the vehicle continuously scan the roadside for free spaces. The data collected is then sent to the Bosch Cloud and processed into a digital parking map, similar to active parking space management.

But how does the car know whether it has just passed a parking space or simply an exit? This question is one of the key technical challenges for the parking guidance technology. “In 2015, we made the decisive step in development”, says Nicodemus. “Today we use data mining and special algorithms to analyze and process the data.” For example, if several vehicles detect a space in a certain place and it is never occupied, it is probably an exit.

The system is constantly learning through analysis of the collected data. This also means that the more networked cars there are, the more current and accurate the parking information is. For this reason, Bosch takes what is called a cross-OEM approach to community-based parking. This means that different vehicle manufacturers can access the data and then decide how they will prepare the data for their customers.