Your Next Ford Vehicle Might Autonomously Valet Park Itself


Driving is fun, parking is not—especially if you drive a gigantic crew-cab pickup truck. Well, your 2021 Ford F-150 or other new Ford might valet park itself in the very near future (a Ford Escape experimental participant is pictured here), if you can find a parking structure outfitted with Bosch’s infrastructure-based Automated Valet Parking system.

Ford Automated Valet Parking
Ford Automated Valet Parking
Ford Automated Valet Parking
Ford Automated Valet Parking

We’ve sat in lots of cars that have valet parked themselves. Most have leaned on sensors, software, and computing power onboard the vehicle to perform this task. You drive into a structure, exit the vehicle, call up the car’s smart-phone app or press a button on the key remote, and the vehicle senses its surroundings, drives at low speed through the structure, finds an open parking space, and pulls into it. When you hail its return, it reverses the procedure. This is a lot like level-five autonomy—with the hardware and software costs that portends—but in a confined space at ultra-low speeds, which lowers the liability concerns considerably.

Bosch aims to accelerate adoption of such automated parking by pulling that sensing and communicating power out of the vehicle and instead building it into the parking structure. To demonstrate the system, Bosch has partnered with Ford and Bedrock, the largest property developer in the City of Detroit, to demonstrate the system in Bedrock’s Assembly Garage in Corktown, near the site of Ford’s new mobility innovation district, anchored by Michigan Central Station.



The garage has a designated “drop-off zone” where a driver climbs out of the vehicle, opens an app, and orders the vehicle to park. The app pays the parking fee, communicates important vehicle parameters (primarily size and turning radius), and authorizes the garage infrastructure to take control of the vehicle. At this point an elaborate array of lidar sensors in the garage, networked with an onsite computer, track the movements of any vehicles moving through the garage, monitoring the area around each for any obstacles. It assumes electronic control of the vehicle’s steering, transmission, acceleration, and braking via wi-fi connection to an embedded modem in the car. This “airport control tower” approach of monitoring and directing the movement of all vehicles in the structure sounds safer than entrusting myriad vehicles to autonomously park themselves without incident in a “dumb” (unconnected) structure.

Such embedded modems and app controls have been installed in a fleet of Ford Escape test vehicles during the month-plus-long demonstration project, and all 2021 Ford F-150 trucks will come equipped with such a modem as standard equipment. Obviously the new F-150 also features all the necessary electronic controls needed to permit the Bosch infrastructure to direct the parking operation.

What’s in it for garage operators? By designating an area for the exclusive use of automated valet parking, alleviating the need to leave room for doors to open, means vehicles can be parked so close to one another as to permit a claimed 20-percent increase in the number of vehicles that can be parked. Obviously, it also enables prepaid and advance-reserved parking as well. By restricting the public to the drop-off area, there’s less litter to pick up, less risk of theft and vandalism, and the amount of light or heat required in the garage is greatly reduced. These cost savings and revenue opportunities will help fund the up-front capital expense.

Bosch also notes that, while this demo uses lidar sensors, it’s working on a system that uses stereo-vision cameras instead, which provides the added benefit of security monitoring.

There is no currently scheduled roll-out of Automated Valet Parking, but a great number of new vehicles are just an over-the-air software-push away from being able to implement this convenience feature as the parking garage infrastructure rolls out.

The post Your Next Ford Vehicle Might Autonomously Valet Park Itself appeared first on MotorTrend.

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