Automated Valet Parking: That time my Audi parked itself

CARIAD, the Volkswagen Group’s automotive software subsidiary, is presenting “automated valet parking” together with the Audi, Porsche, and VW brands at the IAA in Munich. Blog author Sandra Gessner from Audi tested it – and had someone explain to her how this technology of the future works.

09/07/2021 Reading Time: 4 min

Audi e-tron Sportback: Power consumption, combined*: 24–20.9 kWh/100km (NEDC); 25.9–21.1 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Audi e-tron Sportback: Power consumption, combined*: 24–20.9 kWh/100km (NEDC); 25.9–21.1 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Automated parking: blogger Sandra tests AVP at the IAA

Who isn’t familiar with the following scenario: you leave for an appointment with plenty of time yet arrive at the very last minute because you have to spend ages looking for a parking space. Or when it’s so difficult to pull into one of the last free spaces in a parking garage, you risk scratching your paint. Typical everyday stress in today’s urban environments: According to statistics, German drivers spend an average of 41 hours a year looking for parking spaces.

 

But soon this will all be a thing of the past! At least that’s what the developers at CARIAD say. They are the pioneers in the field of “automated valet parking” – AVP for short. And in a flagship project initiated by the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) and involving BMW, Ford, Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz, they are now demonstrating fully automated parking at the IAA in Munich. How does it work?

 

At the Munich Exhibition Center’s “Messe West” parking garage, I find out.

More than just a parking service

I’m meeting with Christian Feist, responsible for automated parking concept development at CARIAD, at the scene of the event. He picks me up in an Audi e-tron Sportback with CARIAD branding. We pull into the drop-off zone and get out. I use my key to lock the car, whip out my smartphone, and press the button in the app to park my car – and the e-tron Sportback rolls off very slowly on its own. The left, right, then left turn signals blink one after the other – the sign that the vehicle is now communicating with the parking garage.

 

I’m also impressed by what else will be possible in this parking garage of the future. Christian describes the services at the parking space: “There are two charging robots, one on the ground, a second hanging from the ceiling, that will recharge your car while you stroll around the trade show.” How convenient! So I get my car back with a full battery. “Yes, and if you want, freshly washed too. For this purpose, there are two fully automatic car washes inside. And a security operator monitors everything to make sure your car is always safe and secure.” And what if I forget something in the car? “No problem, you can always go in and get your stuff out of the car.“

Making the best use of parking times

Christian adds, “AVP is pretty cool, isn’t it? It also offers people tangible benefits, because you save a lot of time, it’s incredibly convenient, and it’s the safest possible way to park your car. And we’re already thinking about linking parking with other services.”

 

“Which ones specifically?” I want to know. “A kind of concierge at shopping malls, for example,” Christian says. “Imagine strolling through a bunch of different stores and boutiques, making some purchases – and having everything delivered to a designated pickup zone, where the car has been reparked fully automatically. And all of your purchases are stowed there in your trunk without you having to carry them. Something like this is entirely possible.” But other aspects are also important, he says. The use of available parking spaces becomes much more efficient because the Audi drives directly to the vacant space detected by the system without making any detours. “And that,” says Christian, “reduces consumption. And particularly in the case of cars with internal combustion engines, also carbon emissions. This is a factor that shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to sustainability.”

Two types of automated parking

To understand all of this even better, I have another appointment with Rudolf Leinfelder from CARIAD, who is also on the automated parking development team. He explains the key technical aspects to me: “We’re demonstrating automated valet parking type 2 here. In this case, the vehicle must implement the driving commands safely and precisely. It receives the commands via a communications interface to the parking infrastructure. To ensure that the system works in as many parking garages and with different vehicle brands as possible later on, it is important that they all communicate via a standardized protocol. Being able to demonstrate this in the real world for once is the motivation behind this flagship project with many manufacturers and technology developers here in Munich.”

 

An important question pops into my head: “When will this technology hit the streets?” “From a technical standpoint,” Christian replies, “we’ve been able to do this for a long time. But before we move from autonomous parking to autonomous driving, there's still a lot to do, especially in terms of safety.” But parking garages are perfect as a precursor to further development, he says: “They’re actually the smallest cities in the world, with pedestrians, bike riders, skateboarders. So even if the car is moving slowly, it still has to be able to perform a lot of different tasks. It needs to be able to drive forward and backward – and brake immediately as soon as an obstacle appears.”

Audi e-tron Sportback: Power consumption, combined*: 24–20.9 kWh/100km (NEDC); 25.9–21.1 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Audi e-tron Sportback: Power consumption, combined*: 24–20.9 kWh/100km (NEDC); 25.9–21.1 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Retrieving my Audi via app

In the meantime, the exhibition center has gotten really busy. Even here in the parking garage, which is only partly dedicated to the AVP demonstration, there are now a lot of people coming and going. Time to tell my Audi to come on back. I take my smartphone out of my pocket and use the app to instruct my Audi to return to the drop-off zone – and after just a few minutes, the car rolls right up. But before it makes the last short turn into the drop-off zone to my left, it stops – someone unexpectedly pops out between two parked cars pushing a fully loaded shopping cart. And then the car parks itself – and we’re ready for the ride home.

But soon this will all be a thing of the past! At least that’s what the developers at CARIAD say. They are the pioneers in the field of “automated valet parking” – AVP for short. And in a flagship project initiated by the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) and involving BMW, Ford, Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz, they are now demonstrating fully automated parking at the IAA in Munich.

 

How does it work? At the Munich Exhibition Center’s “Messe West” parking garage, I find out.

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