Partnership Announces Parking Research Space in Detroit

The Detroit Smart Parking Lab's open innovation platform will offer multiple ways for mobility organizations to use the facility independently, work together with founding members on a specific project or apply for grant projects.

Jim Irwin, Associate Editor

August 5, 2021

3 Min Read
20210805-MBS-Traverse City-7 - Copy
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (right) discusses parking initiative with her team onstage on Thursday at MBS.Bosch

The State of Michigan will partner with private companies to create the Detroit Smart Parking Lab (DSPL), a real-world test site for emerging technologies in parking-related mobility, logistics and electric-vehicle charging.

Founding sponsors of the program include Ford, automotive supplier Bosch, the Enterprise car-rental company and Bedrock, a Detroit-based commercial real estate firm. The DSPL will be located in Bedrock’s 160,000-sq.-ft. (14,860-sq.-m) Assembly Garage located in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood just west of downtown.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and company representatives announced the DSPL at the Center for Automotive Research’s 2021 Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, MI.

“There are more solutions (to parking) than keeping one vehicle in one place at one time,” Whitmer tells CAR President and CEO Carla Bailo following the announcement.

Scheduled to open in September, the lab will be operated by the Ypsilanti, MI-based American Center for Mobility, a not-for-profit joint research initiative by government, industry and academic organizations. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) and the state Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME) will offer technology grants for testing at DSPL.

Initial awardees include Enterprise, which will test automated valet parking and EV charging technology with an eye toward making rental-car returns more seamless and efficient.

“Innovative collaborations like the Detroit Smart Parking Lab are solving issues that will make transportation more accessible and affordable while creating an environment for technology and mobility-related companies to thrive and grow in Michigan,” Whitmer says in a news release.

For Trevor Pawl, Michigan’s chief mobility officer, the research project is a step toward a better world. “I’m sick of driving around the block five times to find a parking spot,” he says on stage at MBS. “There’s got to be a better way. Imagine a world where active parking relieves pollution and anxiety.”

20210805-Paul Thomas, executive VP of Mobility Solutions, Americas for Bosch MBS-Traverse City-10 - Copy.jpg

20210805-Paul Thomas, executive VP of Mobility Solutions, Americas for Bosch MBS-Traverse City-10 - Copy_0

The DPSL will feature an open innovation platform that will offer multiple ways for mobility organizations to use the facility independently, work together with founding members on a specific project or apply for grant projects.

The lab builds upon the automated valet parking demonstration led by Ford, Bedrock and Bosch in August 2020 when they showcased Bosch automated valet parking technology that allowed Ford Escapes to drive and park themselves at Bedrock’s Assembly Garage. “Collaboration is essential for the future of mobility,” says Paul Thomas (pictured below), Bosch's executive vice president-Mobility Solutions, Americas.

To spur established companies, startups and other innovators exploring advanced parking technologies, the MEDC in partnership with the OFME has established the Michigan Mobility Funding Program to develop and test parking-related mobility solutions within and around the garage.

“Real estate, auto and government working hand-in-hand allows us to not only maintain Detroit’s position as the Motor City but showcase the city as the evolving tech hub of the Midwest,” says Heather Wilberger, chief information officer at Bedrock. “Finding parking in urban environments can account for as much as 30% of vehicle traffic and emissions.

“As the city’s largest real estate developer, these collaborations and programs allow us to develop, test and implement advanced parking technologies to help reduce parking time and emissions, helping to drive sustainability benefits throughout our portfolio.”

Adds Craig Stephens, director-Controls & Automated Systems, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, “The Detroit Smart Parking Lab will help us collaborate with other innovators on even better solutions to make parking easier, so it doesn’t spoil an evening out.”

– with Tom Murphy

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