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Research integrates battery charging, valet parking

Posted: 23 Jul 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Volkswagen  battery charging  valet parking  electric vehicle 

Six research partners are in the process of developing applications around autonomous and, in some cases, electric vehicles. The V-Charge project focuses on methods and algorithms allowing vehicles to park autonomously, charge its batteries and get back to its user as soon as it is summoned.

The technology developed within the V-Charge projects enables drivers to pull up right in front of his/her destination's entrance, get out and establish the link to his vehicle via an associated smartphone application. Operating automatically, the vehicle has a digital map relayed to it and within the parking area or car park autonomously navigates to a parking space. If it is an electric vehicle, the system additionally prioritises a parking bay with an automatic charging facility. Pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles are identified by the vehicle's sensors. Therefore, the vehicle is allowed to travel in so-called 'mixed traffic.' The selected parking area neither has to be an enclosed domain nor is any complex technical equipment required other than the fixtures to charge electric vehicles wirelessly. The development of such equipment however is not part of the research project at hand.

As the electric vehicle nears its destination, the system recognises via local sensors whether the allocated parking space is taken. This part of the project might already be outdated today; it can be expected that by the time the features developed in the V-Charge project will be commercially available an interactive parking space management will also be available that directly guides the vehicle to available parking spaces.

Valet parking plus battery charging in one app

Valet parking plus battery charging in one app. Image: Volkswagen

In any case, as soon as the vehicle has reached the parking spot, the automatic parking manoeuvre begins and positions the vehicle above the inductive charging spot. When the charging process is complete, the vehicle automatically moves to another parking space, leaving the charging station free for another electric car. When the driver needs the vehicle again, he calls it back to the starting point via the V-Charge app. The vehicle moves to the defined pick-up location, with the driver not needing to set foot into the car park.

The project combines a number of expertise fields associated to distinguished research institutions throughout Europe: The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich is responsible for visual localisation, movement planning, vehicle control, camera calibration, 3D reconstruction from images and obstacle detection. In addition, the ETH organises the R&D activities within the project. The Braunschweig Technical University (Germany) works issues such as electronic car park management and the vehicle's communication with its surroundings via the vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) scheme. Automotive supplier Robert Bosch contributes its expertise in sensor technology, the University of Parma (Italy) looks after object recognition, and the Oxford University (UK) develops detailed electronic maps of the parking area, pursuing the concept of semantic maps. Carmaker Volkswagen provides 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. During the introductory stage it was possible to utilise sensor and camera technologies that are already being used in today's production vehicles. The V-Charge test vehicle is based on a Volkswagen e-Golf. Four wide-angle cameras and two 3D cameras, twelve ultrasound sensors, digital maps and the C2X technology for the vehicle's communication with the infrastructure ensure that the vehicle's surroundings are reliably detected and recognised. Pedestrians, vehicles and obstacles get identified, parking spaces recognised 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 fulfil is complex and extremely varied.

As continual tests run as part of the research project show, V-Charge is already functional. GPS-independent indoor localisation, centimetre-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.

- Christoph Hammerschmidt
  EE Times Europe





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