Valeo’s Autonomous Valet to Bow in 2016

With the technology a driver can get out of the car, push a button on his key fob and the car will go find its parking place. Later, after another button punch, the car comes back to find its driver.

William Diem, Correspondent

October 3, 2014

3 Min Read
Valeo smart key
Valeo smart key.

PARIS – A German luxury car will launch in 2016 with an automated valet parking program from the French supplier Valeo.

A driver can get out of the car, push a button on his key fob and the car will go find its parking place. Later, after another button punch, the car comes back to find its driver.

The system will be the first to use Valeo’s laser scanner, a sensor not unlike those on Google’s autonomous cars that scan the area to identify the environment, such as other cars moving in a parking garage. Valeo’s ultrasound and camera sensors also will contribute data to the software directing the vehicle.

The supplier declines to identify the automaker that will be first with the device.

Already, Valeo is working on a second generation of the technology. Jean-Francois Tarabbia, director- R&D and marketing products, says two new features have been added.

The car can receive information from the infrastructure in a parking garage about where parking places are available, allowing the car to reserve one. In the next generation, the car can pick up the driver in a different location than where he disembarked.

Driver-assistance programs and reduction of emissions are Valeo’s two areas of R&D, and the excitement over autonomous driving, in which cars can take over boring jobs from drivers, is transforming the company, says CEO Jacques Aschenbroich.

Valeo is spending €1.1 billion ($1.4 billion) – 10% of its automotive component sales – on R&D, and it hired 1,300 engineers last year. It wants to become a high-tech company, says Aschenbroich.

“A parts supplier will never make a car,” he says. “But a high-tech company can influence the whole automotive industry.”

Providing advanced materials and features also is profitable. The supplier is in line to meet its operating-profit goal of 7% this year.

Valeo talked publicly about several new technologies at the Paris auto show, including what it calls its InBlue smart telephone that would be an electronic car key. The telephone owner could share keys with the family, so that everyone’s smartphone could start the car. The key could be loaned to a friend, for car sharing.

The phone would lock and unlock the car and start it at a distance. It would know the car’s status: temperature, fuel level, tire pressure and potential time it would take to get to a destination.

Another future product for the future car is a laser headlamp that will light up 2,000 ft. (600 m) in front of the car, twice as much as current headlights, and will operate at full power all the time, with sensors and software redirecting the light away from oncoming traffic.

On the fuel-saving side of development, says Tarabbia, Valeo has its first customer for an electric supercharger. A German premium automaker will use it in 2016 to cut fuel consumption 10%. The electric supercharger suffers from no turbo lag because an electric motor rapidly spins it up to 60,000 rpms.

The innovations Valeo is developing for what it calls intuitive driving will arrive on the market partly related to legislation, and partly related to how quickly the car-buying public adopts new functionality, because people have to get used to them, says Guillaume Devauchelle, vice president-innovation and scientific development.

Google’s research and publicity over autonomous driving is helpful to Valeo, says Devauchelle: “Something that appears to be dangerous is suddenly fashionable.”

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