Mercedes to transform cars into roving parking space finders

Several carmakers are pursuing ways to reduce the time and stress needed to find parking, which is also a burden on cities as the search adds to traffic congestion and pollution from the vehicles making loops to scan for an available space.

Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

To help end the blind search for a parking space in crowded city streets, Mercedes-Benz cars will start giving each other a heads-up when a space is free.

Drivers often pass by vacant spots when they're not looking to park and that information will be noted by the car and uploaded to help others, under a pilot project in Stuttgart, Germany, between Mercedes and parts supplier Robert Bosch GmbH, the two companies said Friday in a statement.

Several carmakers are pursuing ways to reduce the time and stress needed to find parking, which is also a burden on cities as the search adds to traffic congestion and pollution from the vehicles making loops to scan for an available space. BMW's ParkNow service allows drivers to pre-book in parking garages as well as pay for roadside spots via an app, while Siemens last year outlined a system using radar mounted on street lamps to provide information about open locations.

Transforming cars into parking finders is part of a broader suite of ideas pursued by Mercedes' parent company Daimler to help drivers save time.

Parcel delivery

During the first half of next year, Daimler plans to roll out an app that will help with office work even while at the wheel, CEO Dieter Zetsche said at a conference in Berlin. Delivering online shopping parcels to a car's trunk will also start to be available from next year, following a broad pilot project already underway with Smart city cars, he said.

The Stuttgart parking test takes advantage of the Mercedes E-class sedan's ultra-sound sensors, which can identify parking spots big enough for the vehicle. The cars in the pilot will collect data about free spaces as they drive past at speeds as fast as 55 kilometers (34 miles) per hour.

In a first step, the system will then share information about the probability of finding a space in a particular street. The second phase of the project targets sharing real-time information on the exact location and size of spots to create a digital parking map that can be displayed in the car, Mercedes said.

"Nearly all of our Mercedes-Benz cars are connected," Sajjad Kahn, Mercedes' head of digital vehicle and mobility, said in the statement. "If a car then also has the right sensors, it's logical to try and use the data generated while driving past to help speed up the search for a parking spot."

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