Continental Automotive Group, the German company which specialises in tyres and automotive technology, has developed an automated technology solution, enabling cars to valet park without a driver. Recently presented to the public at the 2017 International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, the fully automated Valet Parking function was demonstrated in a demo vehicle at Continental’s premises in the city.
Continental’s latest innovative technology has been presented at a time when autonomous driving is an increasingly hot topic in the Middle East as a number of GCC governments have revealed their plans to develop smart cities and boost autonomous driving.
“With valet parking, we have presented a driverless function, which relieves drivers from a tedious procedure,” explained Alfred Eckert, Head of Advanced Technology in Continental’s Chassis & Safety division. “The valet parking function provides drivers with a beneficial service in terms of convenience and time. It is also a concrete step towards modern mobility based on fully automated driving.”
With this new technology, once the driver has exited the vehicle, the car navigates independently through the parking garage barrier, detecting free parking spaces and parks fully autonomously on the first floor. Pedestrians and other vehicles crossing its path are detected and the driving strategy is adapted dynamically. The next stage of development, which Continental’s team of engineers in Germany are working on now, will mean the system can also navigate up and down ramps to other levels in multi-storey parking facilities.
An adaptable system
In the case of the first stage scenario demonstrated for valet parking, the system communicates wirelessly with the entry barrier. For this purpose, a particular communication infrastructure is activated in the barrier to allow access and calculate the time parked through an automatic process. This technology is already available in parking garages, where it is used in the form of a radio frequency identification system for parking permit holders. However, where parking barriers require a ticket for entry, drivers will have to get their tickets manually, drive through the barrier, exit the car, and then hand the rest of the parking procedure over to the vehicle. Upon request, the vehicle will return to the owner with a simple tap on a button on a mobile application for valet parking, leading the car to the exit barrier.
Continental has developed this software to enable vehicles to find a parking space regardless of the infrastructure in a parking garage. The demo vehicle detects its surroundings using four short-range radar sensors, four surround-view cameras and a forward-facing mono camera. Through the use of sensory data and a digital map, the vehicle will determine its exact position in the parking garage and navigate automatically. The sensory-based approach of the valet parking function with ramp navigation is expected to be available to the public by 2022.
Autonomous driving in the Middle East
As a number of GCC governments begin to roll out their own plans, particularly in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the unveiling of Continental’s new technology is timely and in line with the focus on developing smart cities and boosting autonomous driving. This includes Dubai Roads and Transport Authority’s ongoing goal to make 25 percent of all journeys driverless by 2030, and Saudi Arabia’s plans for the US$ 100 billion King Abdullah Economic City remodelling to better accommodate driverless cars in recognition of potential future demand.