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Parking – not necessarily our favorite topic. It’s getting crowded in the big cities, and we seem to spend ages looking for parking spaces. Despite, or perhaps precisely because of this, Daimler decided to hold a “Parking TecDay”. Spoiler alert: there are better times ahead!
Daimler has taken on the challenge of making parking more secure, convenient and efficient. It aims to do this mainly using sensors, ultrasound and cameras, which in some cases are already installed in the vehicles. Smart phones, our constant companions, also have an important role to play.
This means that struggling to maneuver an always much too large car into a much too small parking space, the annoyance of car park scrapes and rummaging for change at ticket machines could soon be a thing of the past. However, first things first.
Innovation at the push of a button
Our Parking Assist function celebrated its tenth birthday in May. It is now installed in more than 90% of all vehicles. But that is far from everything that our cars can do and will be able to do in the future to make parking easier.
Number 1: Looking for a parking space
We spend an average of 55 hours every year looking for parking spaces in the cities of Europe and North America. That’s more than one work week… We all know the drill: first gear – rolling along slowly. Is that a space? No, it’s a smart… And over there, isn’t he getting into his car? No, he’s getting out.
This scenario could soon be consigned to the past thanks to “Mercedes me connect”, which offers a real-time parking space search function using your smart phone! How does it work? Using “real-time sensors” and defined algorithms. This allows us to determine when a parking space gets free and my car is directed to it in a convenient manner.
Incidentally, this is available for both parking structures and roadside parking. The system is already available in the new A-Class and using the app. Less stress – more time – what more could you want?
Number 2: No more rummaging for change in the parking structure
Parking isn’t free everywhere, and so I find myself with my car in front of the lowered barrier at the entrance to the parking structure. So I wind down my window, stick my arm out and press the button. Now I just need to make sure I don’t lose my ticket, and remember to keep enough change for the ticket machine after shopping.
This scenario could already be a thing of the past from August, when the “Mercedes-Benz parking card” is being launched in selected parking structures. This will render getting a ticket and fumbling with the controls superfluous. It’s possible by the parking card, which can be read by the antenna on the barrier machine (including at a distance). For the tech-heads among us:
It works using an RFID (radio frequency identification) chip. The barrier opens when entering and when leaving the parking structure. A push notification on my cell phone tells me what the charges are, and I can view the bill in the Mercedes me portal. The charges are taken off my credit card by the service provider “Mercedes Pay”. The overview map in the Mercedes me app shows which parking structures offer the service.
Number 3: Deliveries straight to the trunk with CHARK.me
Work is finished for the day. Time to start the car and head home. No wait, I still need to take a slight detour to pick up my blazer from the dry cleaner’s, buy something for dinner and then get home before the ice cream gets too warm. This is where the “CHARK.ME” app comes in. The app’s motto is “Change the way your park“!
The aim of the service is to give you more quality time. Unfortunately my car does not enjoy the luxury of a garage, and therefore spends most of the day standing around unused. Why not use this time to have it washed, get me some purchases and packages delivered? I’m certainly going to give it some thought the next time I return from holiday on a Sunday and my fridge is empty!
But giving someone else access to my car? Feels strange… This is also something that the developers of CHARK.me have thought about. They have built in a number of security obstacles so that not just anyone has access to the vehicle. The innovation is currently undergoing testing, with 500 group employees testing the system. And the first partners are now literally on board.
Number 4: Having your car parked!
I encounter my personal highlight of the day in the parking structure for the Mercedes-Benz Museum, where I come across an E-Class with turquoise indicators. That alone draws my attention, but there is more to come: There is no-one at the steering wheel. The car drives along as if controlled by a ghost. Brief questioning reveals that the service is called “Automatic Valet Parking” (AVP for short), and is currently being tested by Daimler and Bosch in the museum’s parking structure with two vehicle.
But how does it work? A kind of virtual track is laid for the car, which it drives along. And even though it is the self-driving car that is being tested, I am allowed to take a seat in the back and experience it all first-hand for myself. In the interest of security there is an operator walking alongside the car (a safety requirement during pilot testing) who can stop the vehicle using a controller if necessary. Everyone strapped in? Here we go!
The car pulls off slowly from the “drop-off zone”, where the vehicle is left for AVP. Our destination is a parking space on the level above. But what happens if there is an obstacle? Our developers go all out. An employee spontaneously jumps in front of the car for us. Not a problem for the car, which comes to an immediate standstill! What a surprise move. Something else that I’m interested in finding out is how high an obstacle needs to be in order to be recognized as such. The answer from the developers is 10 centimeters. That’s the height of a small glass…
In the future it should be possible to park the car in “handover zones” and then let it park itself. Of course this could save an enormous amount of time and stress!
The developers explain another positive effect to us: Since there is no longer any need for passengers to get in or out of the vehicle, or for vehicles to be loaded and unloaded, up to 20% more vehicles can fit in the same amount of space. Incidentally, everyone is more than welcome to experience Automated Valet Parking for themselves in the Mercedes-Benz Museum parking structure in Stuttgart.
Number 5: Don’t mess with my Mercedes!
It’s an experience many of us know: You unsuspectingly park your car somewhere, and come back finding your car with a scratched side or broken in. Since the beginning of the year it has been possible to order the solution.
The optional theft prevention package for the E-Class, including collision detection (i.e. car park scrapes), theft alarm and towaway protection! It goes without saying that I want to see this feature live as well. And the situation is recreated very realistically.
Next to me sits an employee on his smart phone, who is playing the owner of the parked E-Class. In front of me a driver in a smart, who is heading straight for the rear end of the E-Class. She won’t, will she? CRASH! Less than 5 seconds later, the mercedes.me app displays report on the owner’s smart phone: slight collision, rear left. I am speechless for a moment after experiencing this innovation first-hand.
The demonstration continues: An attempt is made to purloin a wallet through the open window of the E-Class. The vehicle once again sends a report directly to the owner’s smart phone. This technology is made possible by sensors, which are mounted everywhere on and in the vehicle. My burning question: Does the car also take photos that can be used as evidence? The answer from the experts is sadly no. This is not possible for data protection reasons (at least for the time being).
Thus far and even further
Daimler is experiencing an upheaval. You can feel it in the air, and it is even noticeable for me after working here for just a few months. Maintaining our core competencies on the one hand, and expanding through innovation on a journey toward becoming a mobility services provider on the other. Today I had the opportunity to experience for myself what this transformation feels like, and how much is already possible. Fully in keeping with the Claim:
First move the world