Valeo recently introduced its Valet Park4U system, becoming one of the latest manufacturers to reveal its vision for self-parking cars. More of a self-contained vehicle technology than other autonomous parking systems, the Valet Park4U system eliminates the need for advanced car-to-lot communications, relying entirely on onboard systems.
Previously detailed automated parking systems from the likes of Volvo and Audi rely to some extent on vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, gathering data from the lot in navigating to an open parking spot. The Valeo system works independently of the parking facility, relying entirely on onboard systems. Because of this autonomy, it could presumably be used in virtually any parking lot, whereas systems that rely on vehicle-to-infrastructure communications require compatible parking facilities.
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Outside of that difference, the Valet Park4U is quite similar to other systems. Drop the car off at the lot entrance; activate self-parking via smartphone; and be on your way. You'll receive a notification when the car is safe and sound in a parking spot. The driver activates the system again when it's time to drive off, and the car maneuvers its way around to meet him or her at the exit.
Valeo's hardware consists of a laser scanner, 12 ultrasonic sensors and four cameras. This combination enables the car to maintain awareness of its surroundings, navigate around any obstacles, identify an empty space, effectively maneuver to and into the parking space, and send real-time images back to the owner's smartphone.
One question that we have about the Park4U system is what happens if the parking lot is full. With vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, this information would presumably be available before the driver steps out. Without any type of communications with the parking facility, the vehicle might not know that there are no spaces available. Ideally, there will be a "lot full" sign, but that's not always the case.
Valeo tells us that "the vehicle continues to look for a parking space until it finds it," which doesn't sound all that practical for overcrowded lots (think the local shopping mall the weekend before the holidays). In fact, thinking about an unmanned car driving around in circles for hours is a bit comical and, possibly, scary.
Valeo introduced and demonstrated its new technology at last month's Frankfurt Motor Show. Its press materials do not indicate when or where we might see the technology, and while the company sent an email response answering several of our questions, it did not provide any information about the launch date or form.
The Valet Park4U is the next generation of Valeo's Park4U technology. The latest generation parks with the driver in the car, providing steering and braking capabilities. It is available on such vehicles as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and S-Class.