App-assisted parking

Community-based parking in Stuttgart: as they drive by, vehicles collect information about free parking spaces and forward this on to other vehicles.

The average vehicle spends most of its time standing idle – up to 23 hours a day, in fact. For this it needs space and anyone who manages to find some, especially in the city, can count themselves lucky. Having to search for one of the rare free spots at the side of the road is one of the unfortunate side effects of mass mobility. It leads to overcrowded roads in the city centre and stressed people behind the wheel.

The hunt for parking spaces accounts for up to 40 percent of inner city traffic

The hunt for a free and legally available piece of tarmac accounts for up to 40 percent of inner city traffic. This Sisyphus-like quest therefore also makes a significant contribution to urban pollution. At the same time, there are cars driving past empty parking spaces they don’t need. Another motorist in the vicinity would surely be extremely grateful for this information. Helping to match people with spaces is the goal of a new service currently being worked on by Bosch and Mercedes-Benz. It will be available at the beginning of next year.

Sensors scan the roadside

Behind the somewhat unwieldy term “Community-based parking” lies a concept where parking sensors inside the vehicles collect data about available spaces and share this information with those searching for a parking spot in the area. The sensors in the Mercedes that has been developed into a parking space-finding machine can scan the roadside at speeds of up to 55 km/h. The spaces detected are then identified as parking bays using data mining. This enables the system to differentiate between other spaces such as entrances and exits. The new service is currently still being tested in a pilot project in Stuttgart.

While passing by other vehicles, the car registers free parking spaces and transmits this information to the server.

In the first development stage, the new service initially just lets the person looking for a space know the probability of being able to park in a particular road. This assistance will be offered early next year. The driver can then enter the relevant road into his sat-nav and set off in hope of success.

It is the logical next step to use data generated as you drive by to quickly find parking spaces

Sajjad Khan, Head of Digital Vehicle and Mobility at Mercedes-Benz

In the first instance, the data will only be displayed on the Mercedes me app on the smartphone. “Here, the driver can find out how likely he is to be able to park his Mercedes in a free space close to his destination,” explained Marc Hagmeister from Mercedes me connect. “As a second step, we want to display the currently available parking spaces on the sat-nav screen.” This can also be used to report the number of spaces available in multi-storey car parks. During a short test drive on the outskirts of Stuttgart, the arrows jumping quickly to the left and right next to the “P-Symbol” in Hagmeister’s C-Class continually show free spaces. These are sent to the cloud for further processing before being forwarded from there to the smartphone app.

“Almost all of our passenger cars at Mercedes-Benz are already smartly connected. If they are then also fitted with the relevant sensors, it is the next logical step for us to use this data, which is generated as you drive by, to quickly find parking spaces,” explains Sajjad Khan, Head of Digital Vehicle and Mobility at Mercedes-Benz. The data collected by the sensors is sent to Daimler servers where it is anonymised and forwarded to the Bosch cloud.

In the future, no more than a second should pass between finding a parking space and registering it

Eventually, information on free parking spaces will be automatically sent to the car’s sat-nav via the app so that the driver is directed straight to an available bay, although this is still some way off yet. This will save on fuel and reduce environmental pollution. At present, there are different Mercedes models driving around Stuttgart, all working with Bosch to find free spaces. The sensors can identify all manner of parking spaces (parallel, perpendicular and angle), which the system then sorts accordingly.

In the future, according to the developers, no more than a second should pass between finding a parking space and registering it. On a road driven by 10,000 cars a day, Hagmeister believes it will take just 20 cars to produce a complete map of the parking spaces. When the new service launches, it plans to initially contain data for 30 German towns and cities. Data for a total of 100 cities across Europe will also be stored to begin with.

The service is currently restricted to communication between Mercedes models. However, in the future, the developers imagine that other makes will also be included in the communication loop. They can then be provided with extensive information about the parking situation, thereby helping to keep the environment safe and drivers calm.

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