The multinational firm’s push to enable self-parking cars is a microcosm of its broader IIoT strategy.
Most people still have misgivings about the prospect of turning over driving duties to a robotic car, even as researchers rush to make self-driving vehicles mainstream. But many are happy enough to adopt technology to make driving more convenient (i.e., Google Maps) or safer (i.e., lane departure warning systems and collision avoidance systems).
It stands to reason motorists will be happy enough to use technology to help find parking spots. “Parking is one of the areas where we see that people are the most frustrated,” said Mike Mansuetti, president of Bosch North America in an interview at CES. An average driver in the United States spends some 17 hours each year hunting for parking, according to research from INRIX. In urban areas, the problem is especially vexing. A typical motorist in Los Angeles spends 85 hours looking for parking. New Yorkers spend 107 hours on the task. As a nation, the United States wastes $73 billion on parking in terms of wasted time, fuel and environmental costs.
Bosch is hoping to help tackle the problem by introducing “community-based parking,” an emerging technology leveraging in-vehicle cameras and sensors to find parking spots, and guide drivers with turn-by-turn directions to the nearest available spot. “We can take that data and lay it over what we know about the city so we can identify viable parking spaces or a space in front of a fire hydrant or a [building] exit,” Mansuetti said. The company is also working with Daimler to enable self-parking cars. Last year, the two companies announced plans to debut “Automated Valet Parking” this year at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart after premiering the technology last July.
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An important factor determining how successful a given IIoT project will be is its ability to straddle the traditional and emerging ecosystems, which include everything from a new technology’s technical requirements to its support from customers and other constituents. As such, Mansuetti (pictured below) believes Bosch’s plan to enable semi- and fully-autonomous parking is a good adoption case for autonomous driving because it leverages existing sensor technology in modern vehicles, while responding to an issue many drivers — and city officials — agree is a problem. Bosch is also working to lay the groundwork for self-driving vehicles through a variety of other initiatives, ranging from its work in redundant braking and steering to its plans to make driving safer and more convenient for the time being through services that warn of wrong-way drivers and locating free parking spaces.
Bosch’s plans to ultimately enable self-parking cars is but one example of its push to identify new pragmatic applications for its sensor and software technology, both within the company and externally. “We have a lead user/lead provider strategy on Industry 4.0,” Mansuetti said. “Sensors and software are our history.”
Because the company makes more than 1 million sensors each day, it stands to reason Bosch would look for novel ways to deploy sensor technology across its mobility, building and energy, industrial technology and consumer business segments. “We have been talking about the ‘automated, connected and electrified’ future for a long time,” Manusetti said. Self-parking cars are but one example of how those trends are redefining what is possible in transportation.
“There are a lot of interesting things you can start doing built on this platform of strong sensor base,” Mansuetti said. So many, in fact, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the possibilities. But at the end of the day, there has to be a good business case behind an IoT application or else it won’t take root. “IoT is very attractive. It is fun, and it is new and exciting,” Mansuetti said, but pragmatic experimentation is a required ingredient for successful IoT projects. “The ability to engage in experiments, learn from them and quickly move to the next one is a skill that all companies need to learn.”