The first job threatened by self-driving cars might not be the long-haul trucker, or even your Uber driver. No, the best place to start with autonomy is the parking garage, according to a new concept called “automated valet parking” that was unveiled by Daimler and Bosch today at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.
Parking assists have been in high-end cars for a while now, and Tesla in particular has a “summon car” feature. But the Diamler / Bosch collaboration takes the idea to a different level. The two companies imagine a parking garage that’s been fitted with an “intelligent multi-storey car park infrastructure” created by Bosch that helps guide cars with semi-autonomous capabilities (specifically ones from Daimler’s big car company, Mercedes-Benz) to and from available parking spaces.
All a driver has to do is step out of their car and tap “park” on a corresponding app. Summoning your car at the end of your trip or errand is supposedly just as easy. The building’s intelligent system will handle the parking logistics, and the car’s suite of sensors and cameras will remain on the lookout for crossing pedestrians or other obstacles along the way.
While there’s a lot of hand-wringing about the impact of self-driving cars on human jobs, it’s conceivable that an idea like this could reduce the need for parking attendants and valets sometime over the next decade. After all, self-driving technology is much more likely to initially appear in controlled settings like the one proposed here than on the open road.
Retrofitting an entire building or lot with sensors probably won’t be cheap, and it will definitely stir up new headaches for the people who own and operate these properties. (How well will Bosch and Daimler’s system work with cars that aren’t made by Mercedes-Benz, for example?) But the two companies are saying the automated valet system will make it possible to fit up to 20 percent more cars in the same space, which might be enough to sway some garage owners.
For now, though, Daimler and Bosch are referring to this as an “extensive trial” that will be taking place only at the Mercedes-Benz museum, so it’s not going to put anyone out of a job just yet. But hey, if and when it does, at least you’ll never have to remember where you parked.