Parking Garages For Connected Driverless Cars

The anticipated presence of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) will require an array of smart infrastructure to fully reap the benefits of self-driving vehicles.

This also extends to parking structures and, with that in mind, work is underway for the UK’s first multi-level car park for CAVs, which will be built in the Midlands and is part of an overall test environment to advance the parking capabilities of driverless vehicles.

The Trusted Autonomous Parking (Park-IT) project is a joint effort between engineering firm Horiba Mira and Coventry University, also backed by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and self-driving UK hub organization Zenzic. The parking structure is part of Horiba’s City Circuit facility, a purpose-built cityscape test track environment built to advance the research and development of V2V and V2I communications and intelligent and connected vehicles.

“We already have a dedicated urban driving environment and what we’re creating in the center of that complex is a range of parking environment as well,” said Chris Reeves, head of CAV technologies at Horiba Mira. “We’re not just building a multi-story car park but also places to test different type of parking.”

Reeves explained the car park will allow researchers to test not only automated driving functions but also technologies to enable highly automated parking, like automated valet parking where the driver leaves the vehicle at a reception before drives away and parks itself.

The absence of humans in the parking structure allows for the possibility of increased parking density such as no more worries about leaving enough space to open the doors. However, it will also require the ability for infrastructure and vehicle to seamlessly communicate with each other. “Think of how much time is consumed trying to find parking in an urban environment. An intelligent parking garage knows where there are spaces and can then optimize the parking experience,” Reeves said. “It offers a whole host of potential efficiency savings and benefits.”

Reeves noted collaboration between legislative and regulatory environments will be critically important to the development of such structures, as their design and construction requires partnerships ranging from telecoms and GNSS-type services through to how they are physically designed, as well as collaboration with automakers and the vehicle supply chain. “Making sure everyone is speaking the same language allows us to create a fully integrated solution that is extremely convenient to use,” Reeves said. “These services have to be seamless and intuitive in order for consumers to use them.”

An organization like Coventry University can be particularly helpful in providing the tech readiness and research capabilities that he says are critical to making these solutions viable products. The University is also creating a “digital twin” of the parking structure that will allow for virtual testing for scenarios that would be impossible, for reasons of cost or otherwise, to test in the real world, Reeves explained.

He also noted automated parking technologies will provide urban planners and architects with the opportunity to revise what has traditionally perceived as parking, enabling fresh designs of parking environments, though Reeves cautioned it would also require additional infrastructure. “Building a parking garage for CAVs from the ground up will enable the design to include sensors such for pedestrians, free spaces, and the correct lighting needed for autonomous computer vision systems to work,” Sam Barker, senior analyst with Juniper Research, told TU-Automotive.

When it comes to retrofitting existing parking structures to suit the needs and advantages of vehicles that can park themselves, Barker explained such a project would wholly depends on the sensors needed to collect the required information for CAVs to operate efficiently. “Lighting, real-time data on non-CAV operational behavior and a lack of connectivity in the structure will all need to be addressed if retrofitting existing structures is to be successful,” he noted.

Barker also pointed out the safety of pedestrians within these structures would be of the utmost importance for all stakeholders. “Fostering confidence among the general consumer is key to the long term success of all CAV services, thus service providers will need to guarantee the safety of pedestrians before any commercial launches occur,” he said.

Although parking garages in central city areas can often be streetscape killers, these types of parking structures could be more fully integrated with their environment, both aesthetically and from a more holistic approach, though Barker noted safety would always be the paramount concern. “Ensuring the safety of passengers and pedestrians will remain the top concern when designing these structures, rather than aesthetic,” he explained. “The aesthetic of these structures and their functionality will be very different concerns for stakeholders in the development stage.”

Barker also said future mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) solutions will include CAVs alongside public transport and other vehicle hire services. “This means that in the future, these parking garages are likely to act as a hub for autonomous vehicles when not in use–thus placing a point of contact for other transport services will place future MaaS services well,” he said.

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