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Ford Motor Co and Partners are Opening a ‘Smart Parking Lab' in a Detroit Parking Garage to Test Automated Parking, EV Charging

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【Summary】The state of Michigan is teaming up with automaker Ford Motor Co, real estate developer Bedrock and automotive supplier Bosch by launching what they say is the first of its kind real-world test site for autonomous parking technology called the “Detroit Smart Parking Lab”, which is located inside a multi-level parking garage. It will open in September.

FutureCar Staff    Aug 05, 2021 2:00 PM PT
Ford Motor Co and Partners are Opening a ‘Smart Parking Lab' in a Detroit Parking Garage to Test Automated Parking, EV Charging
The Assembly Garage will be used for testing advanced technologies for automated parking, logistics and EV charging.

The state of Michigan is teaming up with automaker Ford Motor Co, real estate developer Bedrock and automotive supplier Bosch by launching what they say is the first of its kind real-world test site for autonomous parking technology called the "Detroit Smart Parking Lab" (DSPL).

The lab, which is located inside a multi-level parking garage, will open in September. In addition to testing self-parking technology, the Smart Lab will test parking-related mobility, logistics and electric vehicle charging technologies.

The collaboration also aims to test more seamless and efficient rental car returns with rental car company Enterprise.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the collaboration Thursday at the Management Briefing Seminars hosted by the Center for Automotive Research in Traverse City, Mich., joined by representatives from all the participating firms.

"Michigan continues to lead the way in developing, testing and deploying the solutions that will drive the future of transportation, including mobility-related parking solutions," said Whitmer. "Innovative collaborations like the Detroit Smart Parking Lab are solving issues that will make transportation more accessible and affordable while creating an environment for technology and mobility-related companies to thrive and grow in Michigan."

The project will bring various stakeholders together to work on solutions for autonomous and electric vehicles in the future, and how they will be used as part of a mobility ecosystem in urban areas.

Finding a parking spot and navigating through a dimly lit and multi-story city parking garage can be stressful for drivers, especially since the ramps are narrow and parking spaces are tight. But in the future, vehicles capable of self-parking will be able to navigate and find an open spot without human assistance.

"Parallel parking or finding spots in busy, tight structures are some of the most stressful driving situations, which is why Ford invested heavily in innovations such as our parallel parking assistance technology," said Craig Stephens, director, Controls & Automated Systems, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. "The Detroit Smart Parking Lab will help us collaborate with other innovators on even better solutions to make parking easier, so it doesn't spoil an evening out."  

The DSPL builds upon the automated valet parking demonstration led by Ford, real estate developer Bedrock and automotive supplier Bosch in August 2020, when the three companies showcased Bosch's automated valet parking technology that allowed Ford Escape vehicles to drive and park themselves at Bedrock's Assembly garage.

The 450-space, mixed-use, parking structure was built to accommodate the newly renovated Corktown Lofts building also known as "The Assembly", which is a mixed-use space consisting of residential, office, and retail space that combined, totals 160,000 square feet in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood.

To help startups develop more advanced parking technologies, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) in partnership with the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification has established the Michigan Mobility Funding Program where organizations can secure funding to develop and test automated and other types of parking solutions within and around the garage.

"Finding parking in urban environments can account for as much as 30 percent of vehicle traffic and emissions. As the city's largest real estate developer, these collaborations and programs allow us to develop, test and implement advanced parking technologies to help reduce parking time and emissions, helping to drive sustainability benefits throughout our portfolio," said Heather Wilberger, chief information officer at Bedrock.

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For its part of the project, car rental company Enterprise will test how the automated valet parking technology can lead to a quicker turnaround process when rental vehicles are returned, serviced, cleaning and refueling so the vehicles are ready for the next rental. For fully-electric vehicles, the smart parking lab's initial project will examine how automated valet parking and charging technology can improve the vehicle pickup and dropoff process.

"As consumer demand and infrastructure viability increases in the coming years, these types of vehicle technology will play an increasingly important role in both the future of sustainable mobility overall and our fleet at Enterprise," said Chris Grayson, Regional Vice President at Enterprise in Detroit.

Day-to-day operations of the smart parking lab will be managed by the American Center for Mobility (ACM), a -non profit collaborative effort of government, industry and academic organizations focused on accelerating the mobility industry.

"The Detroit Smart Parking Lab provides a new platform for ACM to introduce our operational excellence and client-base to, enabling further development of new mobility innovations," said Reuben Sarkar, president and CEO of ACM.

Ford is also renovating the former Michigan Central Train station building in Corkstown which is located near the Detroit Smart Parking Lab. Ford purchased the historic building in 2018.

When renovations are completed, Michigan Central Station will be the centerpiece of Ford's new 30-acre mobility innovation district in Corktown that will help define the way people and goods move around in the future.


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