Automated valet parking might be available on your next Ford
Seriously, this technology could really take the stress out of driving in cities.
Craig ColeFormer reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
Ford announced Wednesday that it's researching automated valet parking in partnership with supplier
and Detroit-based real estate firm Bedrock. The technology is being demonstrated in a garage in the city's Corktown neighborhood, near the automaker's mobility innovation district.
Driving can be a lot of fun, but all too often parking is a total chore, especially in densely packed urban areas. This technology is designed to make the process far simpler and faster for motorists. Instead of tooling around, looking for an open space, parking your vehicle and then finally getting on with your day, this setup allows your car or truck to handle all of that on its own.
Here's how automated valet parking works. Just stop your vehicle at a designated drop-off zone, then, using a smartphone app, tell the car or truck to park itself, and it handles the rest, steering, stopping, changing gears and shutting itself off, all automatically. During the process, if a pedestrian or other obstacle gets in the away, the vehicle can stop to prevent a collision. When it's time to leave, you retrieve your vehicle in the same manner -- just hail it from your smartphone and it automatically returns to the designated area.
Ford is demonstrating automated valet parking with Escape SUVs. Aside from electrically controlled steering and transmissions, plus cameras and parking sensors, they're also fitted with modems, which allow them to communicate with Bosch hardware in the garage. This is "the key piece of technology for this" said Ken Washington, chief technology officer at Ford, speaking during a webcast.
Bedrock's Assembly Garage residential redevelopment project has been upgraded with a range of hardware to support automated valet parking. Primarily, lidar sensors keep track of vehicle locations but things like Ethernet cabling and a server room are also needed to enable this vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, which is what makes everything work. What's interesting is this technology can be integrated into new garages as they're being built or added to existing structures, though the number of sensors needed depends on the garage's architecture and size.
Also speaking during a live webcast, Mike Mansuetti, president of Bosch North America said "this is our first North American demonstration of the automated valet parking [technology]" though Bosch has already worked on something similar with
in Stuttgart, Germany.
Aside from making life a little easier, automated valet parking can be great for garage owners as well. It can allow them to fit 20% more vehicles into the same amount of space because they can be packed like pickles in a jar, since the doors don't have to open for a driver to get in and out.
Automated valet parking offers a host of benefits, but it's probably not going to be available on a large scale anytime soon. Washington said, "We don't have a tangible date to share with you," which is disappointing but understandable. New technology always takes time to implement. He added, however, that this feature is high on Ford's priority list and is a feature that both retail and commercial customers want.
Private demonstrations of Ford, Bosch and Bedrock's automated valet parking will run through September.