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Navigating a multi-storey car park with steep access lanes and tight parking spaces is never easy – wouldn’t it be nice to let someone else take care of the parking for you? Ideally, the car itself. This is an idea which researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany are pursuing.
An end to the nightmare of parking
Once the driver has positioned the vehicle at the entrance to the car park, the car switches to automatic mode. Software calculates the distance to the nearest available parking space and uses sensors to check the surroundings along the way. The steering wheel, accelerator, gears and brakes are all controlled electronically. In other words, the car parks itself.
A few hours later, having done the shopping and enjoyed a cup of coffee, the driver calls the car by smartphone. The car drives itself back to the car park exit and the driver takes over the wheel again.
How does an automatic parking system work?
IT experts and engineers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology’s (KIT) FZI Research Center for Information Technology are testing how to get cars to park themselves at the push of a button. The new automatic parking system does a great deal more than series production models offer. “When the automatic parking system is used in an urban environment, the vehicle does not know what will happen on the way to the parking space”, says Dr Thomas Schamm, head of “mobility for the future” research at the FZI.
If the car is to drive itself fully autonomously, however, it needs to be able to react to its environment – braking and waiting at a red traffic light, for example. “It must be good enough at analysing situations and deciding how to respond to ensure that even a pane of glass will be recognized as an obstacle and that the car will react by applying the brakes”, explains the IT expert.
Data processing poses the greatest challenge
The sensors which the FZI researchers are putting in their test cars – everything from cameras to laser scanners – are already fully developed. At costs of 10,000 to 50,000 euros, however, these are still prototypes which are far too expensive for series production. For the scientists, an even greater challenge concerns how the data supplied by the individual sensors can be interlinked in a way that makes sense. “At the moment, data processing is one of the key research challenges on our path to the autonomous automobile”, comments Dr Thomas Schamm.
Successful collaborations between research and industry
The FZI is working closely together with the automotive industry and manufacturers of hardware and software to ensure that driverless cars are able to make our everyday lives easier in the near future. When dealing with highly sophisticated technical systems, it is important for them to be tested as intensively as possible in practice at the earliest possible stage. And for them to be improved if necessary. In the autoSWIFT research alliance, companies such as Audi, Bosch and Infineon are therefore collaborating with the FZI in Karlsruhe to ensure that the latest technologies are applied in cars more quickly and more appropriately. The German government is providing the consortium with eight million euros in funding to accelerate the pace at which the components needed for automated driving systems can be made ready for series production.
FZI Research Center for Information Technology
The FZI Research Center for Information Technology at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) supports businesses and public institutions with applying the latest IT research findings in the areas of computer science, engineering and economics to innovative products, services and business and production processes. FZI researchers work in seven application fields and conduct interdisciplinary work in 21 fields of research.www.fzi.de