Mercedez-Benz and Bosch want to take the hassle of finding a parking spot out of your life forever.
The two companies are teaming up to create the world's first self-driving valet service at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. The service will eventually allow Mercedes-Benz drivers to hand the wheel over to their cars, which will take control and park themselves.
The project in its current form offers museum visitors a ride into the facility via a fleet of driverless cars, which are summoned via a smartphone app from a predetermined pickup area. Passengers are delivered at the museum doors, then the cars drive themselves to an assigned space in the multi-level garage and park.
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Eventually, Mercedes plans to have the service recognize any Mercedes-Benz vehicle with the proper systems after it drives into a special valet zone in the parking garage. The parking system would communicate with eh car, syncing with the sensors built into the garage to complete the parking job.
There are no headaches circling a cramped garage for spots, no handing of keys to expensive luxury cars over to strangers, no memorizing parking lot zones — just a few taps on a smartphone, a quick ride, and patrons are free to explore the museum.
Parking is just one of many mindless driving tasks self-driving cars are slated to eliminate in the near future, not just removing the banal task of parking but also eliminating the need to park at or close to your destination since you'll be able to simply summon your car when you're ready to go home.
Bosch's system can work today since it doesn't entirely depend on the car's self-driving systems to get around. The car communicates with the sensor system built into the parking garage itself, so driving systems of varying sophistication will theoretically be able to navigate the space with equal precision.
That also means the system can be replicated: Any parking garage that retrofits with the proper sensors and equipment could theoretically also become a self-driving valet, at least for certain cars. There are a host of variables, however: Daimler didn't say how much it costs, whether it would help subsidize it for interested garages, or how it would cope with cars from other vendors using entirely different self-driving tech.
Once those questions are answered, self-driving valets would be enticing to lot parking-lot owners. Such a garage could fit up to 20 percent more vehicles into the same physical space as standard cars, since, with no drivers or passengers, it eliminates the space needed for people to get in and out of their vehicles as well as wastefully sloppy rushed parking jobs.
Today marks the start of a pilot program to test the service, kicking off "an extensive trial and commissioning phase," to asses its safety before it launches publicly next year. Mercedes-Benz won't launch the program until local authorities give the go-ahead, exercising an abundance of caution that others in the space like Uber have sometimes shirked.