The days of valet parking could be numbered, as Mercedes-Benz and Bosch have created a multistory car park and autonomous driving system which automatically parks and retrieves cars without the driver even being present.
Called Automated Valet Parking, the system is currently being trialled at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, and was revealed in a YouTube video published on 24 July.
The system makes use of a semi-autonomous Mercedes, a smartphone app and a car park retrofitted with sensors. The car's owners are seen parking on the ground floor of the car park, then leaving the vehicle, tapping 'Park' on a smartphone app, then leaving to go shopping.
Meanwhile, the car then navigates the car park, climbing stories and avoiding obstacles like pedestrians, children running into its path, and other cars, to find a space. It then parks and switches itself off.
When the owners return to the car park they wait in a designated parking bay on the ground floor, then summon the car via the smartphone app. The car wakes up, switches back on and drives itself back to its owners, ready to be taken home. Mercedes says visitors to the museum will be able to experience the self-parking system for themselves from 2018.
Daimler, parent company of Mercedes, and Bosch claim such a car park could fit in 20% more cars than one filled with human-driven vehicles, which might be enough incentivise to convince building owners to pay for such a system to be installed.
The system demonstrated here appears almost identical to Audi's Piloted Parking, which was shown off back in 2013 with a driverless A7 saloon car.
"We are approaching autonomous driving faster than many people suspect. The driverless parking solution at the Mercedes-Benz Museum demonstrates in impressive fashion just how far the technology has come," said Dr Michael Hafner, head of automated driving and active safety at Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.
"Parking will be an automated process in the future. By applying an intelligent multistorey car park infrastructure and networking it with vehicles, we have managed to realise driverless parking substantially earlier than planned," said Gerhard Steiger, director of the chassis systems control unit at Bosch.