Volkswagen is conducting research into automated parking and charging systems for electric cars.
Dubbed V-Charge for ‘valet charging’, the system allows drivers to leave their cars at a drop-off point, and have the system automatically park and charge the car, before returning it to a collection point when the driver returns.
The system is controlled via a smartphone app. Using the app, the driver can reserve a parking spot, indicate when they are likely to return, and request a particular level of charge.
Once the driver leaves the car at the drop-off point, he initiates the parking process, leaving the car to automatically drive itself into an available space.
If it is an electric vehicle, it is parked in a space with an induction charger, and once charged to the desired level, the car is automatically moved to an ordinary space, leaving the charger free for other vehicles.
While driving autonomously through the car park, the vehicle uses a network of sensors – comprising four wide-angle cameras, two 3D cameras, and twelve ultrasonic sensors – combined with a digital map of the parking facility to navigate from one location to the next.
The system can detect obstacles such as pedestrians or other vehicles and react as necessary – braking to a stop if a pedestrian walks in front of the vehicle, for instance.
The system is said to be able to operate with a high level of precision, and is capable of parking vehicles perfectly within each bay to the nearest centimetre.
When the driver returns, he calls the vehicle back to the collection point using his smartphone, meaning he need never set foot in the parking facility at all.
For vehicles not equipped with an induction charging system, Volkswagen is also working with robotic partners Kuka to develop an automatic plug-in charging station – dubbed e-smartConnect – that uses a camera-guided robotic arm to connect the charging cable.