By Nick Flaherty

The system, with Level 4 autonomy, is in use at Stuttgart Airport for Mercedes cars and marks the start of a rollout of hundreds of systems in Germany.

The driverless parking system allows users to drop their Mercedes S-Class or EQS electric car at a drop off point after notifying an app. The system then checks that the route to a specific parking spot is clear and drives the vehicle autonomously to the correct location, wherever that might be in the parking garage.

Later, the vehicle returns to the pick-up point in exactly the same way. This relies on the interaction of the intelligent infrastructure supplied by Bosch and installed in the parking garage and Mercedes-Benz technology in the car.

The approval to SAE Level 4 is based around a fixed contained environment with known routes and clearly defined risks.

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 vehicle converts the information it receives from the infrastructure into driving manoeuvres. This allows the vehicles to drive up and down ramps to move between stories in the parking garage. If the infrastructure sensors detect an obstacle, the vehicle brakes and safely comes to a complete stop. Only once the route is clear does it continue on its way.

Bosch and Mercedes-Benz obtained the world’s first special permit to operate Automated Valet Parking in 2019 using development vehicles without human oversight in the parking garage of the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

The approval that has now been issued goes beyond this, allowing commercial operation with privately owned vehicles in the P6 parking garage at Stuttgart Airport and follows approval by the German government for driverless cars earlier in the year. The AFGBV (autonomous driving directive), passed by the upper chamber of the German parliament on May 20, 2022, clearly specifies the criteria of the German road traffic act that Level 4 vehicles must satisfy.

The companies plan to gradually roll out the driverless parking service in the APCOA P6 parking garage at Stuttgart Airport.

“The world’s first approval for customer use of our highly automated and driverless parking function, developed together with our technology partner Bosch, shows that innovation leadership and ‘Made in Germany’ go hand in hand,” says Markus Schäfer, member of the board of management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, chief technology officer, responsible for development and procurement. “Following the market launch of our DRIVE PILOT Level 3 system, we will soon be offering a Level 4 system for parking with our INTELLIGENT PARK PILOT – all of that this year. We really are showing our customers how technology can make life easier and give back precious time.”

“Driverless parking is a key aspect of automated mobility. The highly automated parking system we developed together with our partner Mercedes-Benz shows just how far we’ve already progressed along this development path. It will be with driverless parking that everyday automated driving will start,” says Dr. Markus Heyn, member of the Bosch board of management and chairman of the Mobility Solutions business sector. “From the outset, Bosch has taken the approach of making the infrastructure in parking garages intelligent. Accordingly, we have set standards in this area. In the future, our aim is to equip more and more parking garages with the necessary infrastructure technology – we plan to do several hundred of them worldwide in the next few years.”