New Bosch concept technology lets cars park themselves

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News
This is a dashboard-mounted monitor where the driver can control the image view to help avoid potential, slow-moving collisions.

Flat Rock — Robert Bosch LLC wants to take the headaches out of parking by letting your car do it for you.

The German auto supplier on Thursday demonstrated its Home Zone Park Assist technology for the first time in North America. Users exit their car and, by pressing a button on a smartphone, the car drives itself to a spot up to 110 yards away and parks itself. It can also back up and return to you when summoned.

There’s one caveat: You must first drive the car along the path you want it to take to teach it where to go. But it’s ideal for situations where the final stretch rarely changes: from your driveway to your cluttered garage, or from your office door to your reserved parking spot in the company lot. It will let you store up to 10 paths in the car’s memory.

The system, which uses a stereo camera and 12 ultrasonic sensors, can navigate corners and turn around. If it senses something in its path, it will automatically stop. It will also stop if you take your finger off the smartphone button.

A number of recent studies suggest the public has yet to warm to the idea of cars that can drive themselves. Bosch’s own internal research found 58 percent of respondents were very interested, but wanted the ability to turn it off.

They hope the parking concept technology will go into production in 2019 and become a way for the public to get more comfortable with autonomous cars.

“Parking situations are generally at lower speeds in a more controlled environment, so from a consumer acceptance perceptive, it’s one of the areas we see we can introduce automated functions in such a way they can appreciate them,” said Frank Sgambati, Bosch’s director of marketing and product innovation of chassis systems control in North America. “Parking is one of those situations where it’s not a lot of fun. We see it as a great advantage to introduce a lot of automated functions.”

Bosch hopes the technology will reduce accidents. It it says 13 percent of all crashes occur in parking lots, according to Nationwide Insurance claims data.

Company engineers demonstrated the Home Zone Park Assist on a Mercedes B-Class at the company’s Flat Rock test track in a technology showcase that featured nearly a dozen semi-autonomous features.

Ultimately, Sgambati says cars will be able to park themselves anywhere. He envisions a world where multiple vehicles can enter parking garages on their own and all park next to each other in tight spaces, then return to their drivers outside the garage when called upon.

Among its other technologies, Bosch showed:

■Fifth-generation 3-D surround-view camera system: Using four 1.2-megapixel cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors, Bosch can create a highly-detailed 360-degree view around the car. Users can switch to individual cameras (one in front, one in back and one on each side mirror) and can pan up to 190 degrees on each side of the car. The system can predict where the car will travel based on how much you’re turning the wheel, and can predict if your car door will hit an object when it’s opened.

■Overhead Clearance Assist: For use when there’s something on top of your car and you’re unsure if you’ll be able to enter a parking garage, drive-through or other area with limited clearance. A driver starts by entering into a display screen the height of the object (bicycle, Christmas tree, kayak, etc.) on top of their car. When the car gets close to an obstacle, the system will measure the clearance using a stereo video camera and will alert the driver if the car won’t fit.

■Predictive Pedestrian Protection: Demonstrated in a Volkswagen Passat, the technology can detect moving people and automatically brake the car before it can hit them.

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