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Had Enough Dumb Parking? Ford and Bosch Open a Smart Parking Lab

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The Detroit Smart Parking Lab
Parking is everyone’s hassle, so Ford and Bosch are testing some solutions in Detroit.

Even people who like to drive hate to park. This truism motivated Ford and Bosch to partner with Detroit real estate company Bedrock to start workshopping solutions that will take some of the pain out of this common headache for drivers.

The partners started a year ago, testing automated Ford Escape SUVs` that could park themselves in one of Bedrock’s parking garages. “We are continually searching for opportunities to expand our leading suite of Ford Co-Pilot360 driver-assist technologies that help people drive more confidently and we believe automated valet parking technology holds great promise,” said Ken Washington, then-chief technology officer at Ford said at the time. “Our work with Bosch and Bedrock also aligns with our vision for the future, which includes increasingly automated vehicles that are more aware of their surroundings while requiring less on-board computing to help improve design, packaging, and affordability.”

Bedrock is on board because the company says, automated parking can increase the effective parking capacity of a building by 20 percent.

“We strive to be at the forefront of parking and mobility initiatives in Detroit because we recognize the importance of interconnectivity between real estate and mobility,” said Heather Wilberger, chief information officer at Bedrock. “In addition to drastically reducing park time, we see this solution as the first step to bringing automated parking to our city, providing the ultimate convenience for our tenants, visitors, neighborhoods, and residents.”

“Finding parking in urban environments can account for as much as 30 percent of vehicle traffic and emissions,” Wilberger continued. “As the city’s largest real estate developer, these collaborations and programs allow us to develop, test and implement advanced parking technologies to help reduce parking time and emissions, helping to drive sustainability benefits throughout our portfolio.”

Now, the partners are opening the Detroit Smart Parking Lab, which will further experiment with solutions for drivers.

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Inside the Detroit Smart Parking Lab.

“Collaboration is essential for the future of mobility,” said Paul Thomas, executive vice president of Mobility Solutions, Americas for Bosch. “With the Detroit Smart Parking Lab, we have a cross-section of collaborators – from government leaders to mobility and tech companies – that that will empower us to bring innovation to market through collaboration.”

All of that is fine, as optimizing the efficiency of space in cities is beneficial to society. But drivers are a bit more self-interested, so they’ll be happy to know there are benefits to them too. “Parallel parking or finding spots in busy, tight structures are some of the most stressful driving situations, which is why Ford invested heavily in innovations such as our parallel parking assistance technology,” said Craig Stephens, director, Controls & Automated Systems, Ford Research, and Advanced Engineering. “The Detroit Smart Parking Lab will help us collaborate with other innovators on even better solutions to make parking easier, so it doesn’t spoil an evening out.”  

The parking lab will be put to the test by cars from the Enterprise rental car fleet, which will use the automated valet parking technology to aid Enterprise’s quick turnaround process. That’s where rental vehicles are returned, serviced with cleaning and fueling (including charging, for EVs), and then staged for future rentals.

“Participation in the DSPL project allows Enterprise to explore the feasibility and viability of autonomous, connected, and electrified mobility innovations with recognized technology collaborators,” said Chris Grayson, Regional Vice President at Enterprise in Detroit.

Enterprise customers in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood will be the test subjects, so we look forward to hearing from visitors to the Motor City how their automated parking experience goes, to give us a hint of what might be coming.

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