Connected-car tech could show drivers which car parks have spaces

In cities such as London and Frankfurt, in Germany, it is estimated that the average driver spends as many as 67 hours every year searching for parking spaces at a cost of more than €1,250. So-called “cruising” is responsible for an estimated 30 per cent of urban traffic.

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But the problem might not be all down to a lack of parking spaces with data showing that in the UK some local authority car park occupancy rates can be as low as 50 per cent.

Ford and Vodafone are now testing new connected-vehicle technology that could make it easier to find parking spaces in city centres. Parking Space Guidance technology displays to drivers the number of spaces offered by nearby car parks and how to get to them.

“Satnavs are great at helping us to get to our destination but aren’t so useful when it comes to helping us to park there – especially in city centres,” said Tobias Wallerius, engineer, Product Development, Ford of Europe. “Parking Space Guidance is a connected‑vehicle technology that could help drivers to more quickly complete their journey, saving them money, time and benefitting overall air quality.”

“When vehicles can exchange data with infrastructure in real-time, traffic will become more intelligent, searching for a parking space will become less stressful and people will get to their destination more quickly,” said Michael Reinartz, Head of Innovation, Vodafone.

Parking Space Guidance, which is updated in real-time based on car park data, is being trialled by Ford and Vodafone as part of the KoMoD (Kooperative Mobilität im digitalen Testfeld Düsseldorf) programme, in Germany, a €15 million cross-industry project testing new connected‑vehicle and automated driving technologies.

As test vehicles drive through the city, they receive road status and car park information from a central computer system, based on their geolocation, along with information from nearby dynamic digital road signs.

Further features being demonstrated by Ford and Vodafone as part of KoMoD include:

Traffic Light Assistance System, in which the time remaining on upcoming red or green traffic signals is displayed on the instrument panel. Advance warning of a red light can reduce hard braking, which could lead to safety, fuel economy and traffic flow benefits as drivers adjust their speeds accordingly.

Tunnel Information System which provides advance information about lane closures, speed limits and slow-moving vehicles in tunnels up ahead.

Vario Display delivers up-to-date information to the instrument cluster about major events that may impact local traffic, such as exhibitions, concerts or football matches.

Traffic Control Systems on the motorway help to improve the overall traffic flow by adapting speed limits.

Smart traffic sign transmission sends speed limit and hazard sign information directly to vehicle displays. While traffic sign recognition using cameras is present in many vehicles, it can be challenged in poor weather or surrounded by high-sided vehicles. Transmitting sign information to the vehicle using a cellular connection directly from the sign or a nearby road-side unit ensures drivers see important safety information.

Bad weather warningautomatically communicates weather conditions from one vehicle to others nearby; for example, if a vehicle’s automated windscreen wipers detect rain, it will broadcast this to advise nearby drivers via their in-vehicle displays in case they may wish to adjust their speed or route.

Previously, the trials have demonstrated how technology can automatically warn other drivers of accidents on the road ahead, as well as show them the exact location of nearby emergency vehicles and how best to get out of the way of them.

For now, information broadcast between vehicles is intended to enable drivers to make informed decisions about their journeys. However, vehicle‑to‑vehicle and vehicle‑to‑infrastructure communications – such as those in the KoMoD trial – may play an important role in a future in which autonomous vehicles could respond automatically to them.

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