Illustration: Volkswagen

Illustration: Volkswagen

Volkswagen said it wants to take a leading position in the field of automated parking. A look into the near future of automated parking is given by ‘V-Charge’, an EU research project, in which six national and international partners are jointly developing new technologies. Its focus is on automating the search for a parking space and on the charging of electric vehicles.

The vehicle automatically looks for an empty parking space, but that it finds an empty space with charging infrastructure and inductively charges its battery, according to the automaker. Once the charging process is finished, it automatically frees up the charging bay for another electric vehicle and looks for a conventional parking space. ‘V-Charge’ stands for Valet Charge and is pointing the way to the future of automated parking.

Taking the lead in the international research consortium is the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. It is responsible for visual localization, movement planning and vehicle control (Autonomous Systems Lab division), camera calibration, 3D reconstruction from images and obstacle detection (Computer Vision and Geometry Lab division). Braunschweig Technical University works on the issues of car park management and the vehicle’s communication with the technical surroundings (vehicle-to-infrastructure ‘V2I’), Robert Bosch GmbH contributes its expertise in the field of sensor technology, Parma University looks after object recognition and Oxford University handles the development of detailed navigation maps of the parking area (semantic mapping concepts). As the sixth partner in the consortium, Volkswagen is providing the platform equipment, safety and control modules, as well as systems for static monitoring of surroundings, object recognition and automated parking.

The technical prerequisites largely already exist, according to the automaker. During the introductory stage, for instance, it was possible to utilize 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-Golf. Four wide-angle cameras and two 3D cameras, 12 ultrasound sensors, digital maps and the so-called "Car2X" technology for the vehicle’s communication with the infrastructure ensure that the vehicle’s surroundings are reliably detected and recognized. Pedestrians, vehicles, and obstacles get identified, parking spaces recognized and measured, and then this stream of data is put together in real time to form an overall picture – the task that the technical “sensory organs” have to fulfill is complex and extremely varied.

As continual tests run as part of the research project show, V-Charge is already functional today. GPS-independent indoor localization, centimeter-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, according to the automaker.