Ford launches automated parking pilot scheme in Detroit  

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Ford Motor Company, Bedrock – a commercial real-estate developer – and Bosch have announced the launch of an automated parking trial in Detroit. According to the companies, this is the first US infrastructure-based solution for automated valet parking where vehicles will park themselves inside a parking garage.

The pilot scheme is significant because rather than relying on the car’s onboard sensors to navigate the parking lot, it is fed data from (Bosch-supplied) sensors such as lidar installed within the facility. This data is received by the car via its onboard modem and this, says Ford, cuts down on the amount of onboard processing required. The Ford Co-Pilot ADAS already fitted to the test cars has the capability to control throttle, brake and steering inputs, but this is the first time Ford has applied Bosch’s V2X layer into the software stack of one of its vehicles, and it is this integration process that is the focus of the current trial.

According Wes Sherwood, a member of Ford’s team on the project, the Detroit test is part of a companywide move toward a more human-centered design process. “We could have proven out the technology at our [testing]facilities, but the customer journey is very important. This scheme is very much in line with that approach – we want to get early feedback with rapid prototypes before getting further in the engineering process. In the past, we’d get further down the engineering path before doing this, so we were often limited in what could be changed.”

The demonstration project will take place on the ground floor of Bedrock’s Assembly Garage facility in Detroit, the developer’s first residential redevelopment project in the city’s Corktown neighborhood. The choice of a residential premises was a prudent one, Ford accepting that one the biggest challenges in the adoption of AD functionality is customer acceptance. As Sherwood noted, “We need the experience of the customer – both vehicle owners and parking structure operator –to build trust in the feature before we can consider deployment. That is why demonstration projects such as this, with the public, other businesses and regulators involved, is so important.”

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