Enterprise Rent-A-Car Tests Bosch Automated Parking Tech

Now that more people are traveling again, one of the headaches attached to it is the generally miserable process of returning rental cars. But rental giant Enterprise
is in the process of testing a system that would eliminate queuing up your car and waiting for an attendant. In fact, you could drop off the car at the entrance to the garage and walk away.

Enterprise is testing a system introduced last year by German auto supplier Bosch called Automated Valet Parking (AVP). The tests are taking place at the Detroit Smart Parking Lab located in a downtown Detroit parking garage. The lab is a project involving Bosch, Ford Motor Co.
, commercial real estate company Bedrock, which owns and operates the parking garage, the State of Michigan and operated by the Ypsilanti, Mich.-based American Center for Mobility.

In addition, the tests include a combination wireless and wired electric vehicle charging station by Hevo Power to which an EV rental could be directed.

“What’s interesting to us about this proof of concept is it’s kind of mimicking what’s happening in the real world but simplifying it to a pretty significant degree,” said Chris Haffenreffer, Mobility and Electrification Strategy and Innovation at Enterprise during a demonstration for reporters on Wednesday. “This gives us a sense of how it will help our business.”

During the demonstration, several practical scenarios were played out. First, an equipped Ford Escort was brought in as if a customer was returning it. The “customer” gets out and an agent takes over, using a mobile app to direct the car to its assigned space where it parks itself.

The technology was also used to show the car making a sharp turn in the parking garage and then being guided through a mock car wash.

“What we’re trying to do here is create an open innovation platform for parking with inspired mobility technologies business models, that sort of thing—EV charging infrastructure, automated movement of vehicles in a low-speed environment, camera technologies, payment systems, curbside monetization,” explained Kevin Mull, Connected Mobility Services at Bosch.

The technology behind AVP is fairly simple. No special hardware is required in the vehicle. In the test environment, there are Lidar pillars placed in the parking garage monitoring the vehicle, which “speaks” to the them via wifi to a server in the garage connected to the Lidar pillars.

In use at a parking garage at the Stuttgart, Germany airport, the Lidar pillars are replaced by much less expensive Bosch stereo cameras.

With the expected influx of electric vehicles to its rental fleet, it was also important to Enterprise to find out how Bosch’s AVP could work in concert with a charging system. That’s where Hevo Power came into play.

In Wednesday’s demonstration led by Hevo founder and CEO Jeremy McCool, the AVP-equipped EV was directed to a combination wireless pad and wired charging station which can be operated manually or programmed via a mobile app. McCool said the Hevo system is world’s only combination wireless and plug-in charging system.

“The driver gets out, walks away, it starts to charge. It can be done by a human or automated valet parking,” said McCool.

Enterprise’s use of the Detroit Smart Parking Lab is really the first major project since the lab was established this past summer and marks a broader effort to look at new urban mobility possibilities

“This is a real world case study of what it could be like not just for cities like San Francisco or New York that have robust mobility networks but also cities like Detroit that are trying to struggle between how do you accommodate the suburban driver coming into the downtown and the influx of business that wants to be here,” said Kate Gasparro, Urban Innovation and Strategy Director at Bedrock. “What do Millennials and Gen Z’ers want? They want to see we’re looking at mobility as a holistic solution.”

As for Ford, Chief Engineer Craig Stephens said the project is all part of a much larger, but simple goal. “The two demos are really validation that this is the right thing to do.”

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