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V-Charge - the future of parking?

2015-07-17 07:16

V-CHARGE: Volkswagen is working on a system combining valet parking and charging an electric car. Image: VW

WOLFSBURG, Germany - Volkswagen has shown a glimpse into the future of automated parking with a concept labelled 'V-Charge', a European Union research project in which six national and international partners are jointly developing new technology.

Its focus is on automating the search for a parking space and on the charging of electric vehicles. The best part about it is that the vehicle not only automatically looks for an empty parking space but one with an induction charger.

Once re-charging is finished the car auto-drives from the charging bay to look for a conventional slot - releasing the charge infrastructure for another vehicle.

TIME-SAVER

In the US, especially, valet parking is a big hit: stop your car at your destination, valet personnel park it for you and have it brought around again as and when you need it. The V-Charge project picks up on this idea. Its development goal is a fully automated search for a parking slot within defined zones, such as in a multi-floor car park.

There are many scenarios that illustrate the advantages of the V-Charge concept. Take one practical everyday example: a commuter notices that a person is possibly going to be late and is thus running the risk of missing an important meeting. 'V-Charge' is able to pull up in front of the main entrance, get out and establish the link to his vehicle via the associated smartphone application.

Operating fully automatically, the vehicle has a digital map relayed to it and within the parking area or multi-storey car park autonomously navigates to a parking space. If it is an electric vehicle, the system additionally prioritises a parking bay with an automatic charging facility. Pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles are identified by the cameras and ultrasound sensors integrated within the vehicle.

PRIORITISES ELECTRIC BAY

As the electric vehicle nears its destination, the system recognises via local sensors whether the allocated parking space is taken. If it is empty, the fully automatic parking manoeuvre begins and positions the vehicle exactly above the inductive charging spot. When the charging process is complete, the vehicle automatically moves to another parking space, leaving the charging station free for another electric car. When the driver returns to the multi-storey car park, he calls the vehicle back to the starting point via the V-Charge app.

Taking the lead in the international research consortium is the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. It is responsible for visual localisation, movement planning and vehicle control (Autonomous Systems Lab division), camera calibration, 3D reconstruction from images and obstacle detection (Computer Vision and Geometry Lab division).

TECHNICAL SENSORY ORGANS

The technical prerequisites largely already exist. During the introductory stage, for instance, it was possible to utilise sensor and camera technologies that are already being used in today's production vehicles. A dense network of sensory devices enables autonomous operation of the V-Charge test vehicle, which is based on a Volkswagen e Golf1.

As continual tests run as part of the research project show, V-Charge is already functional today. GPS-independent indoor localisation, centimetre-exact parking space measurement and 360-degree recognition of surroundings all function reliably, as do the system's reactions to pedestrians and vehicles and the way in which it takes account of traffic moving in line with or across the vehicle's path.


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