As surround view monitoring improves, auto-valet becomes game-changer  

Sunny Lee explores how these technologies could revolutionise approaches to parking in the future

While fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) have not yet become the norm, it’s important to take note of where major progress is being made in the world of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), particularly in areas that will have a positive real-world impact in the short-term for automotive consumers.

Vision is everything when it comes to AVs and ADAS. A modern vehicle needs to see its surroundings clearly, and then be able to manoeuvre accurately when there are obstacles. Without this basic principle, the AV industry cannot succeed. The work being done in the field of surround view monitoring (SVM), from software and algorithms to hardware, has advanced tremendously, producing increasingly impressive results every year for the past decade. One of the logical conclusions to which this high-end software has led is genuinely trustworthy auto-valet systems that will solve many real-world parking issues.

Eliminating stressful situations

There are numerous vision-based safety systems on every new vehicle, but those working in the autonomous and ADAS fields are seeing a large increase in demand for SVM and auto-valet systems, with OEMs placing an increasing importance on this particular technology.

36% of people get anxious about parking, and 25% have postponed or abandoned going out due to concerns over parking availability

Why so much focus on SVM and auto-valet? The answer is simple: these systems are about more than just convenience. They can solve some of the most stressful real-world situations that revolve around parking. Whether it’s parallel parking or squeezing into a tight space in a parking lot or garage, these little annoyances can make a night out on the town quite stressful. According to a recent survey, nearly half of Americans have “paralellophobia.” And another survey found that 36% of people get anxious about parking, and 25% have postponed or abandoned going out due to concerns over parking availability.

Larger vehicles increase parking woes

Specifically in regard to parking garages, one issue that increases this stress is that the size of the vehicles purchased today (mainly SUVS and trucks, vs the sedans of the past) has outgrown the parking garages designed as far back as the 1970s. Larger cars are trying to fit into the same smaller spaces, which makes it the perfect time to transition to trusting the in-vehicle technology to make these parking manoeuvres instead of the driver, through well-executed SVM and auto-valet systems.

Parking garages will evolve, too

Research by the University of Toronto shows that AVs can be a solution in the near future, reinventing how we think of parking garages and the parking experience in general. With the rapidly advancing technology being developed today, AVs will soon be able to drop off drivers and passengers before parking, then park themselves closely with little to no space needed for the door to open. Then when it’s time to leave, less space is needed for them to move out, because the vehicles can communicate with each other.

The University of Toronto study found that a well-designed parking lot or garage for AVs could accommodate 62% more cars than a conventional one. It also found that a square-shaped parking lot designed for autonomous vehicles could accommodate up to 87% more vehicles through increased flexibility in how space is utilized. Those numbers are truly impressive and would change the way we all think of the parking experience.

And while this particular vision of advanced parking lots may be one of the future, the technology is starting to appear right now. In 2020, for example, auto-valet systems were already being tested at airports around the world. Parking at the airport is especially stressful to many people, and that is one area where such operations will be very welcome as they expand in the years to come.

A well-designed parking lot or garage for AVs could accommodate 62% more cars than a conventional one

How does it work?

Auto-valet systems are enabled by SVM, which at its surface provides visual cues to make drivers more aware of their surroundings. But diving deeper into deep learning-based vision processing technology takes things to a new level, enabling more sophisticated services such as automatic parking assist (APA) and autonomous valet parking (AVP).

The software element of these systems ensures that the camera system will accurately identify surrounding objects and free space, allowing the vehicle to manoeuvre safely on its own and stop when needed. An APA system can help park with or without the driver’s participation, and the AVP goes a step beyond by offering a  complete valet parking service, the vehicle driving itself to a parking space, then coming back when summoned.

These technologies are truly game-changers that consumers will embrace and demand, and will change forever how we approach the idea of parking in the years to come.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.

Sunny Lee is Chief Operating Officer at StradVision, which produces AI-based vision processing technology for AVs and ADAS systems

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