New Mercedes-Benz technology can park cars without a driver

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A collaboration between Bosch and Mercedes-Benz has reached an important milestone on the way to automated driving. Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) has approved their highly automated parking system for use in the P6 parking garage run by APCOA at Stuttgart Airport.

This makes it the world’s first highly automated driverless parking function to SAE Level 4 to be officially approved for commercial use.

With the vehicle and infrastructure taking over driving and manoeuvring, drivers will be able to turn their attention to other things, instead of time spent looking for a parking space and manoeuvring in tight parking garages.

SAE Level 4 states that the vehicle can autonomously handle all traffic situations under certain conditions, with a driver not being required.

Markus Schäfer, member of the board of management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, chief technology officer, was responsible for development and procurement.

He said: “The world’s first approval for customer use of our highly automated and driverless parking function, developed together with our technology partner Bosch, shows that innovation leadership and ‘Made in Germany’ go hand in hand.

“Following the market launch of our DRIVE PILOT Level 3 system, we will soon be offering a Level 4 system for parking with our INTELLIGENT PARK PILOT – all of that this year. 

“We really are showing our customers how technology can make life easier and give back precious time.”

Motorists can drive into the parking garage, get out and send the vehicle to a parking space just by tapping on a smartphone app – the Automated Valet Parking service has no need for a driver. 

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Once the driver has left the parking garage – to spend the time just saved on doing something else – the vehicle drives itself to its assigned space and parks. 

Later, the vehicle returns to the pick-up point in exactly the same way. This process relies on the interplay between the intelligent infrastructure supplied by Bosch and installed in the parking garage and Mercedes-Benz automotive technology. 

Bosch sensors in the parking garage monitor the driving corridor and its surroundings and provide the information needed to guide the vehicle. 

Vehicles can even drive themselves up and down ramps to move between stories in the parking garage. If the infrastructure sensors detect an obstacle, the vehicle brakes and safely comes to a complete stop. Only once the route is clear does it continue on its way.

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Matthew Avery, chief research strategy officer at Thatcham Research, commented on the developments and praised the achievement.

He said: “Mercedes-Benz continues to break new ground in Germany, with this announcement following approval of its ‘L3’ Drive Pilot system.

“Since the car is doing all the unsupervised driving, the Intelligent Park Pilot function effectively delivers full ‘L4’ Automation for the first time anywhere in the world.

“It’s also an application that many drivers will appreciate. Parking can be stressful and accounts for around a quarter of crashes in the UK. And so, the car taking over this task is something that many will see the benefit to, especially in multi-story environments.

The companies plan to gradually roll out the driverless parking service in the APCOA P6 parking garage at Stuttgart Airport. 

From the day it is released for operation, the first customers with S-Class and EQS models built since July 2022 whose vehicle variants feature the INTELLIGENT PARK PILOT service as part of Mercedes me connect, and who have activated this service, will be able to use the function at the P6 parking garage. 

Once drivers have used their Mercedes me app to book a parking space in advance, they can leave their vehicle in a predetermined drop-off area. After all the passengers have exited the vehicle, the app starts the parking manoeuvre.

Mr Avery added: “This is good news for the adoption of Automated Driving technology, as it demonstrates a relatively safe and advantageous use case to drivers.

“However, there needs to be clarity for the UK insurance market since the carmaker will be liable if there’s a collision. 

“So, whilst insurers will initially settle claims, they will want clear subrogation channels with carmakers, and this is yet to be defined in the UK market.”

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