We've heard about cars that can park themselves, but such technology brings up a relevant question: how will such cars handle paid parking lots? Sure, you could drop them off after picking up your parking ticket, but Audi has a better idea. Its "Audi connect wireless payment" system, which is undergoing trials now, allows for two-way payment communications between car and parking facility.
While the new system closely follows the piloted self-parking system that Audi showed at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, it isn't being developed exclusively for self-parking cars. In fact, it could help to increase convenience for anyone that uses paid parking. Similar to the RFID parking tag systems used by some private lots but in an application that could be used for public parking, Audi's system seeks to eliminate the hassle of physical payments by using wireless communications. It essentially allows the driver to enter, park and leave without an extended stop for ticket handling or physical payment.
The system uses an owner-specific RFID transmitter mounted on the windshield of the vehicle. The owner activates the transmitter with an online registration process. Instead of the tedious process of grabbing a ticket, storing it safely for hours or days and then presenting it to an attendant or machine upon check-out, the system automatically recognizes the RFID tag, keeps tabs on the parking times and sends the owner a monthly bill. The charges are automatically debited from the user's account.
Audi is beginning a trial of the system now in its home city of Ingolstadt, Germany. The pilot project is being conducted with the help of the Ingolstadt Economic Development Agency, which operates nine public parking areas in the city. The trial will include up to 13,000 test cars, and all Audi AG employees will be able to sign up for the option when leasing a new car.
Audi's system is a simple but notable upgrade. Many current public parking systems use automation of some form. Machines deliver time-tracking tickets and open gates, and in some cases, replace a parking attendant in reading the ticket and accepting payment upon departure. Audi's system just makes for more seamless parking by replacing the physical elements with wireless machine-to-machine communications.
Audi's piloted parking system displayed at CES uses even more advanced wireless communications between the parking area's computer system and the car. This system guides the car to an open parking spot, relying on the parking garage's computer to provide the parking space location and a series of in-car ultrasound sensors to guide the car to the space without a driver behind the wheel. When combined with the wireless payment system, a driver could essentially just pull up to the parking lot entry and get to where they're going, relying on technology to park the car.