Parking doesn’t seem like an activity needing its own laboratory.
But, as the automobile industry works its way through big changes, the Detroit Smart Parking Lab (DSPL) is up and running and helping new and established companies prepare for new challenges.
A collaborative partnership that includes Ford; Robert Bosch, the world’s largest automotive parts supplier; the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC); the American Center for Mobility, which was established to test automated vehicles; and Bedrock, the Detroit-based real estate firm with a stake in downtown property and is supporting the parking lab.
Kate Gasparro, Bedrock’s director of urban strategy and innovation, says making parking more accessible and more sustainable can make downtown housing and attractions more appealing to a wider audience and is in the company’s interest. It also makes sense to include parking in the evolving discussion around mobility.
The Detroit Smart Parking Lab allows mobility and smart infrastructure pioneers and startups to test parking-related mobility, logistics and electric-vehicle charging technologies, says Kathryn Snorrason, managing director-Office of Future Mobility & Electrification within MEDC.
Snorrason’s office shows off two projects using the lab to try out new concepts.
One of the projects involves Bosch and Enterprise, one of the nation’s largest car rental firms. The idea behind the project is to expedite the return of rented vehicles, using lidar as a guidepost for an automated valet-type parking system and to control the movement of the vehicle.
The system devised by Bosch and Enterprise can check in the vehicle but eliminate the need for drivers as it moves through various stations such as a car wash, according to Kevin Mull of Bosch Connected Mobility Services.
Mull says the vehicles need no expensive hardware changes because most vehicles today are equipped with remote start, connectivity, electric power steering and electronic shifting. The vehicles’ software is adjusted to accommodate the system, says Mull, but the system is flexible so drivers can perform some operations when needed and pedestrians can walk safely between vehicles.
Bosch already has a similar system, based on stereo cameras attached to the roof of a garage rather than lidar, that it recently put into operation at the airport in Stuttgart, Germany.
The other trial under way at the Detroit Smart Parking Lab involves parking EVs so they can recharged wirelessly.
Jeremy McCool, founder and CEO of HEVO, a start-up company involved in the trial, says wireless charging has many inherent advantages over plug-in charging.
For one thing, an elaborate network of cables and cords isn’t needed. Wireless charging is faster than Level Two charging, says McCool (pictured, left), whose company is experimenting with a system that can guide a customer to an open charger in a parking garage so they can use HEVO’s wireless charging pads.
The HEVO system also gives the customer a receipt for the energy used to recharge the vehicle and for the actual cost, says McCool. A common complaint about public charging infrastructure now being installed around the U.S is the chargers don’t indicate how much it costs to recharge the vehicle, he says.
The prototype installation at the DSPL shows how the system can work in real time, McCool says.
Craig Stephens, a top Ford engineer responsible for automated driving systems, says partnerships are critical to the development of self-driving cars and trucks, making the parking lab a tool for expanding the network of companies working together on common problem.
Snorrason says the DSPL also expands the network of labs across Michigan working on development of future products from a variety of companies, including startups and technology companies new to the state.