Bosch and Daimler secured this week a key milestone in automated driving: the two companies obtained approval from the relevant authorities in Baden-Württemberg for their automated parking system in the Mercedes-Benz Museum parking garage in Stuttgart. The automated valet parking service is accessed via a smartphone app and requires no safety driver, making the provision ‘the world’s first fully automated driverless SAE Level 4 parking function’ to be officially approved for everyday use.
SAE International has published a classification system for the six different levels in 2014, updating in 2016 and 2018 titled “Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to Driving Automation Systems for On-Road Motor Vehicles”. Each automation level is classified by how much a driver is required to intervene and how attentive they need to be when behind the wheel of an autonomous vehicle.
Level 4 cars are considered those vehicles which allow the driver to be “mind-off”, because they’re so capable that the driver isn’t required to intervene at all, even going to sleep if he so chooses. However, there are some restrictions, as the full self-driving mode can only be activated in certain, geofenced areas or in traffic jams. If the car isn’t in a specified area or in a traffic jam, then it must be able to get itself to safety if the driver isn’t able to take control in an emergency.
An example of a level 4 vehicle would be Google’s Waymo project, where Waymo vehicles have been operating driver free for some time in the US, although a test driver is on hand just in case anything goes wrong.
From the very beginning, Bosch and Daimler’s top priority for the driverless parking service was safety. Since there is as yet no official approval process for automated driving functions that do not require a driver, the local authorities – the Stuttgart regional administrative authority and the state of Baden-Württemberg’s transportation ministry – oversaw the project along with experts from the German technical inspection service TÜV Rheinland from the outset. Their aim was to assess the operating safety of the automotive and parking-garage technology.
The result is a comprehensive safety concept with appropriate testing and approval criteria that can be applied beyond this pilot project. In the concept, the developers defined how the driverless vehicle detects pedestrians and other cars in its path and reliably comes to a halt when it encounters an obstacle. They also set up secure communications between all system components and took steps to ensure the reliable activation of the parking maneuver.
Bosch and Daimler started developing fully automated driverless parking in 2015, and in the summer of 2017, their pilot solution in the Mercedes-Benz Museum parking garage in Stuttgart reached an important milestone: automated valet parking in real conditions, with and without drivers at the wheel, was presented to the public for the first time. This premiere was followed by an intensive testing and start-up phase.
Starting in 2018, museum visitors could use the parking service live, accompanied by trained safety personnel, and share their experience. One aspect of the pilot project involved testing lighting concepts on the vehicles. Turquoise lighting indicates that a vehicle is in automated driving mode and informs passers-by and other road users that the vehicle is driving itself. The insights from these tests are reflected in the recently issued SAE standard 3134.
Obtaining final approval from the authorities is a further major milestone for Bosch and Daimler: soon, interested parties will be able to experience the valet parking service live in daily operation in the Mercedes-Benz Museum parking garage without additional supervision from a safety driver.
Drive in to the parking garage, get out, and send the car to a parking space just by tapping on a smartphone screen – automated valet parking has no need for a driver. Once the driver has left the parking garage to go about their business, the car drives itself to an assigned space and parks. Later, the car returns to the drop-off point in exactly the same way.
This process relies on the interplay between the intelligent parking garage infrastructure supplied by Bosch and Mercedes-Benz automotive technology. Bosch sensors in the parking garage monitor the driving corridor and its surroundings and provide the information needed to guide the vehicle. The technology in the car converts the commands from the infrastructure into driving maneuvers.
This way, cars can even drive themselves up and down ramps to move between stories in the parking garage. If the infrastructure sensors detect an obstacle, the vehicle stops immediately.
“This decision by the authorities shows that innovations like automated valet parking are possible in Germany first,” says Dr. Markus Heyn, member of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH. “Driverless driving and parking are important building blocks for tomorrow’s mobility. The automated parking system shows just how far we have already progressed along this development path.”
“This approval from the Baden-Württemberg authorities sets a precedent for obtaining approval in the future for the parking service in parking garages around the world,” says Dr. Michael Hafner, the head of drive technologies and automated driving at Daimler AG. “As a pioneer in automated driving, our project paves the way for automated valet parking to go into mass production in the future.”
Apart from this project, Daimler and Bosch have worked in the development project work in teams in two regions: in the greater Stuttgart area in Germany and, in the United Sates, around Sunnyvale in Silicon Valley between San José and of San Francisco. Since they share the same office space, rapid communication across working disciplines is ensured and decision-making paths are short. At the same time, the companies were able to draw on the combined know-how of their colleagues in the parent companies.
Located on the southern shore of San Francisco Bay in Silicon Valley, and with more than 1 million inhabitants, San José is the third biggest city in California. It is planned to be the pilot city for trials, targeted to begin during the second half of 2019, of the highly and fully automated driving (SAE Level 4/5) on-demand ride-hailing service recently announced by Daimler and Bosch.
The three parties have signed a memorandum of understanding to pursue and finalize this activity. Using automated Mercedes-Benz S-Class vehicles, Daimler and Bosch propose to offer the service to a selected user community in the San Carlos/Stevens Creek corridor between downtown and west San José. With its population expected to grow 40 percent in the next two decades, the metropolitan area faces growing transportation challenges. Moreover, San José wants to prepare itself for a future in which autonomous cars hit the streets.
The on-demand ride-hailing service app operated by Daimler Mobility Services will demonstrate how mobility services such as car sharing (car2go), ride-hailing (mytaxi) and multi-modal platforms (moovel) can be intelligently connected. The test operation will provide information about how highly and fully automated vehicles can be integrated into a multi-modal transportation network.
The intent is to provide a seamless digital experience, in which a selected user community will have the opportunity to hail a self-driving car, monitored by a safety driver, from a designated pick-up location and drive automatically to their destination.
The companies`associates are jointly developing the concepts and algorithms for the highly and fully automated drive system. Daimler’s task is to bring the drive system into the car. The company is providing the necessary development vehicles, test facilities, and vehicles for the test fleet. Bosch is responsible for the components specified during the development work, such as sensors, actuators and control units.
For test purposes, the partners use their laboratories and test rigs, plus their respective test sites in Germany. Since obtaining its Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles in 2014, Mercedes-Benz has been testing automated vehicles in the Sunnyvale/California region. And since 2016, it has had similar approval for the greater Stuttgart area in Germany.
In early 2013, Bosch was the world’s first automotive supplier to test automated driving (SAE level 3) on public roads in Germany and in the United States.