Follow this series of six posts highlighting content from the European Parking Association (EPA), presented by EPA President Nigel Williams. Nigel joins some of the EPA’s data experts and other thought leaders to bring you this content, published by EPA in September 2023, offering insight into the EPA’s data initiatives and highlighting the importance, value, and use of parking data, and shining a spotlight on the Alliance for Parking Data Standards (APDS).
Part 5: The Alluring Vision of Automated Valet Parking
“Just imagine, on your next visit to a city, you simply drop off your car, and it finds its own parking space – saving you not only search time but also, possibly, a long walk and the stress of being late,” says James Toal, senior vice-president Europe at SKIDATA.
“We see automated valet parking (AVP) as a big opportunity for operators to offer visitors a great welcome experience while optimizing the use of their car park by accommodating more cars on less floor space. Powerful artificial intelligence and a set of cameras installed in the car park allow an AVP-equipped car to park itself. This new technology offers more safety and security, as no people are physically involved. This is the promised land of AVP. A driver merely turns up at a designated pick-up point and the AVP system does the rest, often putting the vehicle into a much tighter spot than most humans could achieve.”
James adds, “As parking system suppliers, we can play an essential role by offering and connecting AVP seamlessly into the customer’s journey and improving their parking experience.”
A new age of car intelligence means less searching for parking spaces, thereby cutting congestion – although, for most urban areas, AVP is still a way off. Markus Schneider, owner of Plexx-Digital – a parking software solution specialist – and chair of the APDS Change Control Group, says: “At the moment, there is no reliable information on the speed with which AVP will enter the market. Critical mass is needed for this new technology to deliver its benefits.”
Theo Thuis, managing director innovation at Q-Park, is more hopeful. He says:, “We understand that, by 2027, all new cars will be equipped with AVP sensors and software. Therefore, the car parks that are equipped will be able to offer AVP services. However, there must be viable business models. Above all, AVP must be affordable to have a chance of entering the market. Currently, the AVP system suppliers are still working on bringing the costs into an acceptable range.”
Also vital for the adoption and success of AVP is standardization. “In an environment with so many different players, standardization is a critical success factor. All participants in the process chain need to speak a common ‘technical language’ – in this case, APDS,” says Markus.
Theo believes that the big win for the parking sector is the fact that, as a new player, AVP is working with APDS rather than adding standards retrospectively. “Many people remain skeptical about AVP, but we have started this project by implementing APDS standards into a new functional area of parking. This is the first time that automobile manufacturers and AVP suppliers are adopting APDS as a standard. It will be used as a standard for interoperability within the new parking function. This marks a turn of events in which manufacturers and suppliers of AVP systems realize the importance of working alongside the parking industry. Suddenly, they see that we are an important part of the bigger picture. Until recently, the problem was that the parking sector was so fragmented, and there were no parking data standards – but APDS is changing that. This is a flag-bearer for other parts of the parking sector to adopt APDS.”
The recent move to involve the sector in the development and implementation of AVP is music to Theo’s ears. ‘In the past, all the technological testing was carried out without the parking sector. Now, the manufacturers and their suppliers are inviting and involving us. That is knowledge sharing – knowledge gathering. This involves a new role for the EPA – explaining to our members what is going on and what is going to happen, even when almost no one believes in it yet.’