The impact of autonomous parking: Autonomous Vehicle and ADAS Japan 2016 (2)

Autonomous valet parking to be introduced at special purpose parking lots by around 2020




Road map to autonomous valet parking (Source: A report made by the Autonomous Driving Business Commission, which was jointly established by METI and MLIT)

 The "Autonomous Vehicle and ADAS Japan 2016" conference was organized by TU Automotive and held in Tokyo from July 11 through 12, 2016. This report summarizes Japan's plans to introduce autonomous valet parking based on a lecture presented by Hiroyuki Asada (General Manager, Vehicle Research Dept., Development Engineering Office, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation) titled "Explore the impacts of automated parking."

 Japan is considering plans to achieve autonomous valet parking at parking lots equipped with a specialized infrastructure by around 2020. This report will also describe a system that combines autonomous valet parking and car sharing functions that is being jointly developed by Daimler AG and Robert Bosch GmbH in Europe.

 The lecture was based on the report, "Planning strategies for safe, secure, and convenient parking lot systems in an aging society" that was commissioned by the Mechanical Social Systems Foundation and issued by the Japan Research Industries Association (JRIA). Asada, the lecturer, was a member of the planning committee and took part in the compilation of the report.  The committee was made up of companies like Toyota Motor Corporation, Suzuki Motor Corporation, and Mitsubishi Motors; operators of shopping malls with parking lots (Ito-Yokado Co., Ltd. and Aeon Co., Ltd.); parking lot equipment manufacturers (Takenaka Corporation, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., and Amano Corporation); automotive electronics makers (JVC Kenwood Corporation, NEC Corporation, and Pioneer Corporation); and Sohgo Security Services Co., Ltd.

 A report prepared at roughly the same time as this one by the Autonomous Driving Business Commission, which was jointly established by Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) and the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), will also be referenced. (The content of the two reports is linked.)

 (Notes) Valet parking is a parking service offered by some hotels and restaurants, as explained below: The driver leaves their car key with an attendant called a valet. The valet parks the vehicle for them. When the driver departs the establishment, the valet brings the vehicle back to the entrance.

 Autonomous valet parking is a system for providing valet parking. The system works in conjunction with dedicated infrastructure to detect free parking spaces and determine a route. It automatically moves the vehicle into the parking space, stops the engine, and locks the door. In response to a call from the driver or management staff to move the vehicle out of the space, the system starts the engine and maneuvers the vehicle to an assigned location.

Related report:
Toyota’s ADAS technology: Autonomous Vehicle and ADAS Japan 2016 (1)  (August 2016)

Problems and challenges for parking lots

 The report on strategies for parking lot systems prepared by JRIA analyzes current problems and challenges at parking lots starting from a consideration of traffic accidents, traffic jams, driving stress, security, and effective use of parking space.

 About 30% of traffic accidents occur at parking lots. Accidents where a driver collides with another vehicle are the most common, followed by collisions with infrastructure. These types of accidents account for about 85% of the total accidents at parking lots. By age, about 40% of the total accidents are caused by elderly people aged 60 and up. Moreover, the incidence of accidents involving drivers of age 75 and above is extremely high. These accidents are caused by drivers pressing the wrong pedal when reversing, starting, or driving the vehicle straight in parking lots.

Problems and challenges for parking lots

Traffic accidents  About 30% of vehicular accidents covered by motor vehicle insurance occur at parking lots.
 There is a high incidence of accidents where drivers collide with other vehicles, which along with collisions with infrastructure account for 85% of parking lot accidents.
 About 40% of accidents are caused by elderly people aged 60 and up.
 There is a high frequency of accidents involving people in the vicinity of a vehicle when it starts moving.
Traffic jams  Traffic jams take place at the parking lots of shopping malls, theme parks, and other locations where a large number of people gather.
Driving stress  Many elderly drivers are poor at driving in reverse, while many young drivers have difficulty parking.
 Accidents caused by drivers aged 75 and above are frequently attributed to pressing the wrong pedal.
Security  43.6% of vehicle thefts and accidents occur at monthly parking lots that are outdoors; a much higher figure than other locations. They often occur between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. If vehicles are parked in limited managed space, these accidents will be reduced.
Parking spaces  Improvement in effective use of parking space

The potential for autonomous valet parking to provide solutions for parking lot challenges

 The government report states that all the problems described above can be resolved through practical utilization of autonomous valet parking. Since there would be no pedestrians or ordinary vehicles in specially equipped parking lots, there would be an extremely low probability of accidents occurring. Moreover, drivers and passengers would not exit the vehicle after parking, so parking space could be used more effectively. The report goes on to note other benefits including a reduction in congestion resulting from the elimination of unnecessary vehicle movement.

Features of autonomous valet parking at specially equipped parking lots

Fewer accidents  With specially equipped parking there would be no ordinary cars or pedestrians to deal with. This would lead to a very low possibility of collisions with pedestrians or infrastructure.
Effective use of space  The Parking Place Law prescribes that every space for parking and getting in and out of vehicles should have a width of 2.5 m for ordinary cars, or a width of 3.5 m for cars of the disabled, in contrast with actual vehicle widths (1.48 m for mini vehicles, 1.7 m for midsize cars, and 1.88 m for full-sized cars).
 Autonomous valet parking would allow the parking lot to have an optimized layout. In other words, it enables effective use of space by making the space between vehicles narrow and saving pedestrian passage space, among other applications.
Easing congestion  Autonomous valet parking would eliminate the movement of vehicles looking for parking space. This would substantially ease congestion in parking lots.
Reservation service  Parking lot equipment manufacturers can readily install a parking space reservation service for autonomous valet parking-compatible vehicles.

Other points to note

 Boundaries between areas reserved for autonomous valet parking-compatible vehicles and areas for ordinary vehicles will be made variable in order to handle an increase in the number of autonomous valet parking-compatible vehicles.
 If there are multiple shops, the autonomous valet parking system needs to support multiple drop-off zones. A study will be conducted on installing a dedicated passageway between the parking lot and multiple drop-off zones so that drivers can summon their vehicles to a drop-off zone other than where they left it when they leave the establishment.
 When areas like this for valet parking have been realized, it would become comparatively simple to introduce fee-based valet parking for normal vehicles by arranging teams of veteran, professional drivers.
 Valet parking and parking space reservation services like this would be a significant boon for people with disabilities. Currently parking spaces for their use are often located far from store entrances. Regular customers can also be expected to use these services.

Plans for introducing autonomous valet parking (Autonomous Driving Business Commission)


Road map to autonomous valet parking (Source: A report made by the Autonomous Driving Business Commission, which was jointly established by METI and MLIT)

 According to a report from the Autonomous Driving Business Commission, which was established by the Chief of the Manufacturing Industries Bureau of METI and the Chief of the Road Transport Bureau of MLIT in February 2015, parking lot companies have hopes for autonomous valet parking from the perspective of improvements in parking lot management efficiency, improved safety, and enhancement of customer satisfaction (reduced wait time for parking and reduced travel time on foot). Customers use parking lots at large commercial facilities and theme parks to get out of their vehicles and go to attractions like shops. It is conceivable that the most valuable service parking lots can provide would be valet parking offered after passengers get out of their vehicles at drop-off zones. There is a high likelihood that use of autonomous driving functions will enable provision of a valet parking service at low cost without the involvement of attendants.

 However, autonomous parking in general parking lots where there is only equipment installed on vehicles will be problematic. Consequently, the plan presents the following development milestones:
1)Implementing autonomous valet parking where compatible vehicles use specially equipped parking lots (dedicated spaces that are separate from general traffic and under the jurisdiction of a control center) by around 2020; and
2)Implementing autonomous parking at normal parking lots once fully autonomous driving (level 4) mixed with normal commuting becomes possible.

 In the steps leading up to these milestones, interested parties like parking lot companies, automakers, suppliers, universities, and research institutions will strive to determine the technological elements needed for autonomous parking, aim to develop an overall system by 2017, and propose specifications for international standardization. From 2017 onward, these industries and organizations will start conducting field trials at actual parking lots from areas that are technologically feasible and work build a consensus with one another.

Prior adoption of required technologies in vehicles

 As for technologies that support autonomous valet parking, the prior spread of advanced driver assistance and remote parking functions on highways and other roadways beforehand from around 2018 - 2020 is considered a prerequisite for a policy of equipping vehicles in advance.

 The technologies that will be used for these purposes to control the steering, braking, axel, and switchover from going forward to going in reverse, as well as vehicle remote control, are scalable for autonomous parking, and there is a sense in which a story is being written where autonomous parking will start once parking lots equipped with the appropriate equipment are ready in 2020.

The role of government

 The Japanese government's activities toward introduction of autonomous driving include formulating international rules (standards), as well as coordinating industries and showing development milestones as described above. Japan co-chairs the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)'s World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) subcommittee for autonomous driving with the U.K. and the Working Group on Automatic Commanded Steering Function with Germany. Its policy is to take the initiative in international discussions and overcome legal obstacles for autonomous driving.

 <The necessity for drivers to be in vehicles>

Some typical areas of debate include the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic and Japan's Road Traffic Law, which stipulate that every vehicle should have a driver, but are expected to be revised. In the U.S., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) responded to an inquiry from Google Inc. in February 2016 that Google's Self-Driving System (SDS) software, which has been rated to be artificial intelligence (AI), can be considered a driver under the prerequisite that Google provide satisfactory information and evidence to that effect.

 <Shifting gears while depressing the service brake>

The Remote Control Parking feature on the new BMW 7 Series is the world's first system that enables the driver to park the vehicle with a private terminal after exiting the vehicle. However, for a time it was thought that introducing the system to the U.S. was not possible because the U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 114 requires that the service brake be depressed before the vehicle can be shifted out of "park." Nevertheless, BMW AG appealed to NHTSA, saying that it would be all right if the brake is actually applied even though no driver is on the vehicle and the service brake is not depressed, and it was reported that NHTSA approved the introduction of the Remote Control Parking system in the U.S.

 The Mercedes-Benz E-Class' Remote Parking Pilot system was not available when the model was launched in the U.S. in summer 2016. However, the U.S. model will reportedly be available with the system in the near future.

Debates about regulations for autonomous driving

Items Regulations Description
Requirement for a driver to be in the vehicle Convention on Road Traffic (Geneva, 1949) (ratified by Japan and the U.S.) Article 8.1: Every vehicle or combination of vehicles proceeding as a unit shall have a driver.
Article 8.5: Drivers shall at all times be able to control their vehicles or guide their animals.
Article 10: The driver of a vehicle shall at all times have its speed under control and shall drive in a reasonable and prudent manner.
Road Traffic Law (Japan, 1960) (Obligation to drive safely)
Article 71: The driver of a vehicle shall securely take control of the steering wheel, brakes and other equipment of the vehicle and shall drive, according to the conditions of the road, traffic and the vehicle, at a speed and in a way so as not to cause injury to others.
Automated steering permitted at speeds of up to 10km/h UN R-13H UNECE's regulation UN-R 79 prescribes that use of automated steering is prohibited at speeds of over 10km/h.
Shifting gears while the service brake is depressed FMVSS 114 FMVSS 114 prescribes that the vehicle shall be equipped with a system that prevents the transmission from shifting out of the "park" position unless the service brake is depressed.

Daimler and Bosch to develop an autonomous parking system

 In June 2015 Daimler, car2go (a subsidiary of Daimler that provides car sharing services), and Bosch announced that they will jointly launch a pilot project for an autonomous parking system. The companies will build a system that combines autonomous valet parking and car sharing functions. Under the system, the vehicle drives to a free parking space by itself and returns to the driver autonomously. This allows drivers who are poor at parking to avoid stress and eliminates the trouble of looking for a vehicle in a large parking lot.

 Bosch is developing the infrastructure needed for the system, which includes parking space occupancy sensors, cameras, and communications technology. The parts supplier will also define an interface for existing vehicle components together with Daimler.

Daimler and Bosch to develop an autonomous parking system

Assignment of development work   The autonomous parking system will be made up of infrastructure equipment for parking lots and vehicle control units developed by Bosch, the newest generation of Mercedes-Benz on-board sensors, and the car-sharing expertise of car2go.
Autonomous parking   Drivers will be able to automatically park vehicles at specified spaces using smartphone that have downloaded a special-purpose application beforehand.
Car sharing  Car2go car sharing will involve vehicle reservation by means of smartphones. When users arrive at pick-up-zones in parking lots, reserved vehicles will autonomously drive to the location where they can then be boarded. To return them, the users will park vehicles in drop-off-zones and do return procedure via smartphone. A system will then complete all procedures, and vehicles will autonomously drive to specified parking spaces. In free-drop off areas, users will be able to return the vehicle at parking lots other than the one where the vehicle was picked up.

Remote-control parking systems from BMW, Daimler, and Land Rover

 The BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class that went on sale between 2015 and 2016 are available with remote parking systems. Both systems enable the driver to move their vehicle into and out of a parking space by operating their smartphone or a special-purpose display key from outside the vehicle. Both provide convenience when parking vehicles in tight spaces. Technologies for remotely controlling vehicles are also necessary for autonomous valet parking.

 Jaguar Land Rover Limited has unveiled a system that enables drivers to perform vehicle operations similar to remote controlled cars including parking via a smartphone.

 General technical guidelines for remote-control parking assist devices call for "devices that continue to operate only while the driver outside the vehicle is pressing a button on a remote controller. When the button is released, the device ceases operation and the vehicle stops safely." These guidelines are based on the concept that pressing and holding a button adheres to regulations that state, "Every vehicle should be under control of a driver." (Mercedes-Benz's Remote Parking Pilot adopts a method where a driver keeps drawing a circle on the LCD screen of their smartphone.)

The remote Control Parking available on the BMW 7 Series (Source: BMW)
The remote Control Parking available on the BMW 7 Series (Source: BMW)
Operating the Remote Parking Pilot available on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (photo: courtesy of Daimler)
Operating the Remote Parking Pilot available on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (photo: courtesy of Daimler)
The remote control system developed by Land Rover. The user is carefully controlling a vehicle on a steep slope. (photo: courtesy of Land Rover)
The remote control system developed by Land Rover. The user is carefully controlling a vehicle on a steep slope. (photo: courtesy of Land Rover)

BMW 7 Series' Remote Control Parking

 This system is available on the new BMW 7 Series that went on sale in October 2015. To park the vehicle in a tight space, the driver stops the vehicle in front of it and gets out of the vehicle. When the system is activated from outside the vehicle via the BMW display key, the system automatically maneuvers the vehicle into the space. The space must have a width of about 3 m, 1.5 times the 7 Series' body width of 1.9 m. This feature is useful for tight parking spaces where people have difficulty getting in and out of their vehicle. The system supports head-in parking only and is not ready for back-in parking.
 When Remote Control Parking is in use, the Park Distance Control (PDC) sensors fitted on the front and rear bumpers are continuously operating. Upon detection of any obstacle, or pedestrians abruptly walking in the path of the vehicle, the system automatically stops.
 Remote Control Parking is based on the BMW Group's advanced autonomous driving technologies that have been in development since 2000. The new system is a second next-generation application of BMW's autonomous technologies following its steering and lane control assistant system (this system consistently steers a vehicle to keep it in the middle of the lane by sensing lane markers and other vehicles driving ahead in the same lane).
 This system is available as an option on the new BMW 7 Series for the Japanese market, which was launched in May 2016. The new system is priced at JPY 74,000 including the 8% consumption tax. However, it cannot be used for most Japanese parking lots, which have an average width of 2.5 m.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class' Remote Parking Pilot

 This autonomous parking system is available on the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which went on sale in February 2016. It is operated via a smartphone app. After the dedicated smartphone app (Android or iOS) is activated, the vehicle is automatically moved into or out of a parking space under the control of the system via Bluetooth. The driver's smartphone must be within around 3 m of the vehicle, and the driver has to continually operate the smartphone. Even when the smartphone is being operated, the parking process is the responsibility of the driver.
 While BMW's system supports head-in parking only, Mercedes' system provides back-in parking as well. The system also offers parallel and perpendicular parking. When specified, the system finds a suitable parking space and guides the vehicle into or out of the space by automatically performing accelerating, braking, and steering.

Land Rover showcases prototype vehicle controlled via smartphone

 In June 2015, Land Rover showcased a Range Rover Sport equipped with a new technology that allows a driver to control the vehicle from outside the car via their smartphone similar to how a remote controlled car is operated. A smartphone app allows the driver to steer, accelerate, and brake. A driver can carefully operate their vehicle to negotiate challenging situations like parking in spaces so narrow the doors can’t be opened, or when it is surrounded by obstacles while off-roading.
 For safety, the system only operates the vehicle at a maximum speed of 4 miles (6 km) per hour and stops it when the distance between the smartphone operator and the car exceeds 10 m.

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