The city of Detroit is teaming up with Ford, Bedrock, and Bosch to launch the first real-world test site for automated parking technology. Located in the Bedrock Assembly Garage, the Detroit Smart Parking Lab will help automakers refine smart “valet” systems and develop AI-assisted technologies for the Enterprise rental service.
While self-driving cars aren’t exactly road-ready, automakers feel that automated parking is an achievable short-term goal. Ford and the gang seem most interested in “valet” situations, where drivers exit their car at a building’s entrance and leave it to find a parking space on its own.
As you can see in the above illustration, each space in the Smart Parking Lab features a charging station. Such a system would not make sense in the real world just yet, but that’s not the point. This Smart Parking Lab doubles as a proof-of-concept for Enterprise, the company that orchestrated this joint collaboration between Ford, Bedrock, Bosch, and the state of Michigan.
See, Enterprise has the largest fleet of rental cars in the United States. When a customer returns one of these cars, someone needs to drive it to a parking lot for maintenance. If cars could drive themselves to a parking lot, Enterprise could save a ton of money, especially if those cars are all-electric and can self-charge, eliminating the need for gasoline.
Even if Enterprise doesn’t find what it’s looking for, Ford could develop self-parking technologies that help regular people. The “valet” concept sounds like a luxury for people who live in big cities, but it could greatly help those who are physically disabled, and it could even save you from walking through a parking lot in the rain.