Michigan, Tech Coalition Launch Autono-Parking Lab

The Detroit Smart Parking Lab opens in September 2021 to develop and test emerging parking technology in real-world settings.

The Detroit Smart Parking Lab will facilitate testing and development of advanced parking technologies. (DSPL)

The state of Michigan, Ford, Bosch and real-estate company Bedrock announced last week their collaboration for the Detroit Smart Parking Lab (DSPL), claimed to be the first real-world test site for advanced parking technology. The DSPL will open in September 2021 in a Bedrock-owned parking garage in Detroit that also hosted a valet-parking demonstration project initiated by Ford and Bosch in August, 2020.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announces the Detroit Smart Parking Lab on Aug. 5, 2021 in Traverse City, Mich. (DSPL)

The DSPL project, announced by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, is intended to facilitate smart-infrastructure and mobility companies and startups in development of “parking-related mobility, logistics and electric vehicle charging technologies,” the DSPL said in a release. Michigan will encourage work with the DSPL, said Whitmer, through Michigan Mobility Funding Program grants administered by its Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Office of Future Mobility and Electrification. One of the early awardees of a grant is vehicle-rental agency Enterprise, which intends to use the DSPL to test automated valet parking and electric vehicle (EV) charging to improve vehicle quick-turnaround strategies.

Operated by proving-grounds expert

Day-to-day operations of the DSPL will be handled by the American Center for Mobility (ACM) in Ypsilanti, Mich. “ACM has broad experience operating a 500-acre smart mobility test center where we’ve seen the power of testing emerging mobility technologies in intentionally challenging environments,” said Reuben Sarkar, president and CEO of ACM. “The Detroit Smart Parking Lab provides a new platform for ACM to introduce our operational excellence and client-base to, enabling further development of new mobility innovations.”

Detroit Smart Parking Lab partners Ford, Bosch and Bedrock have prior experience with the DSPL site, conducting an automated valet-parking pilot program initiated in summer 2020. (Ford)

Bosch and Ford already have automated-parking experience at the site with their prior demonstration project. Paul Thomas, executive VP of Mobility Solutions, Americas for Bosch, stressed the efficiency and advantages of teamwork for developing automated-vehicle technology. “Collaboration is essential for the future of mobility,” Thomas noted. . “With the Detroit Smart Parking Lab, we have a cross section of collaborators — from government leaders to mobility and tech companies — that that will empower us to bring innovation to market through collaboration.”

The DSPL’s open innovation platform will enable a variety of independent and collaborative development and testing paths. The DSPL said those interesting in testing at the site should visit the American Center for Mobility website. Information on innovation grants available to support projects utilizing DSPL can be found by visiting the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform at www.michiganbusiness.org/mobility-funding/ .

As with the earlier Ford-Bosch valet parking project, the DSPL hopes work at the site will lead to automated functionality and driver-assist technology to ease the difficulty of parking in congested or unfamiliar areas. Craig Stephens, director, Controls & Automated Systems, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, said, “Parallel parking or finding spots in busy, tight structures are some of the most stressful driving situations, which is why Ford invested heavily in innovations such as our parallel-parking assistance technology. The Detroit Smart Parking Lab will help us collaborate with other innovators on even better solutions to make parking easier.”