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Teams Are Building New Parking Facilities Tailored To Next-Gen Vehicles

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Driverless valet at the Mercedes-Benz Museum's parking garage in Stuttgart, Germany

PHOTO COURTESY OF MERCEDES-BENZ

Today's disruptive vehicle technology is transforming tomorrow's parking spaces. Whether they are retrofitting existing garages to accommodate next-gen vehicles or building new facilities, project teams are trying novel approaches to keep pace with the future of driving.

For instance, Bosch and Daimler recently completed a three-year pilot project to develop an automated valet parking system for driverless vehicles at the Mercedes-Benz Museum's parking garage in Stuttgart, Germany. Customers use an app to reserve the vehicle, which drives itself to and from a designated spot in the garage. “With driverless parking, people will save time and stress, and it will reduce damage to their cars,” says Gerrit Quast, product manager, connected parking, Bosch, Stuttgart, Germany.

Plus, with no need to save space for riders to enter or exit the vehicle, design teams can cram driverless vehicles more tightly into garages. That reality means project teams will be able to build bumper-to-bumper parking garages that can accommodate 62 percent more vehicles than conventional garages, according to 2018 research by a team at the University of Toronto.

Traffic Controlled

Teams must take collaboration to a new level on next-gen parking garage projects. It helps them manage complexity and keep stakeholders, including garage owners, car manufacturers and technical engineers, moving forward in the same lane. That's a considerable departure from automotive projects of the past, Mr. Quast says.

On the driverless valet garage project, the garage owners were not willing to devote entire sections for automated vehicles. So the team had to distribute those vehicles in different locations, which meant the driverless vehicles had to maneuver alongside manually driven vehicles and pedestrians. To meet strict safety requirements, the team installed sensors that continually scan the garage and communicate with vehicles to let them know when and where they could drive. “The sensors see everything the vehicle itself can't see,” Mr. Quast says.

While many teams typically are co-located at the project site, Mr. Quast distributed the team strategically so innovation challenges could be solved more quickly and so high-tech solutions flowed across both Bosch and Daimler more seamlessly. During the development phase, a small core of engineers was hired in, while many more—those specializing in camera vision, for example—remained at their organization's offices, where they had more immediate access to technical knowledge from other colleagues.

But once the implementation phase started in 2016, Mr. Quast centered more team members at the project site until the project was completed this year. “That was essential,” he says. “We had a team of inspired people working no longer just on their own components but on a system level around a single vision.”

Eye on the Future

While new parking projects fill a niche today, the need will grow in the future. For instance, demand for garages compatible with electric vehicles will only increase in Norway. Retail sales of vehicles with combustion engines will end in that country by 2025, and more than half of new cars sold there in 2017 were hybrid or fully electric. So project sponsors want these projects completed fast.

For example, when a team in Oslo, Norway built a parking garage with numerous charging stations for electric vehicles, garage owner Aspelin Ramm wanted the first phase—installing the charging stations—completed and available for use in just six months. “The timeline was the biggest challenge,” says Snorre Sletvold, project manager, Fortum, Oslo, Norway. Fortum was responsible for installing the project's 102 charging stations at the Vulkan garage—the most of any parking garage in the world.

Mr. Sletvold kept the project on schedule from the start by ensuring that all stakeholders had a thorough understanding of the project objective. And holding regular status meetings “helped us avoid conflicts,” he says.

The project was completed in 2017 after the team installed a battery system that evens out peak loads to reduce the garage's drain on the electrical grid. But for Fortum, the project also served as an R&D initiative to demonstrate cutting-edge technology—and attract future business.

“With projects like this, we test different scenarios that might become commonplace in the future electric-vehicle market,” Mr. Sletvold says. “Now the Vulkan parking garage is a showroom that people in the electric-vehicle industry come from all over the world to see.” —Novid Parsi

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—Snorre Sletvold, Fortum, Oslo, Norway

Second Life

As more people use ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, demand for parking garages is set to decrease in many cities. Organizations are beginning to design—or redesign—garages in new ways to increase their longevity.

LONDON, ENGLAND

Carl Turner Architects in December completed a project to convert seven levels of a parking garage into a creative hub of studios, workshops and coworking spaces for artists and entrepreneurs. But the design team retained some evidence of the facility's former life by, for instance, playfully leaving the garage's large yellow arrows on the concrete floor.

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, USA

This parking garage was built with the future in mind. A three-floor residential complex owned by developer AvalonBay Communities will have nearly 1,000 spots for cars when completed in 2021. But the garage's unconventionally level floors and high ceilings will allow it to be converted into commercial spaces, should demand for parking drop.

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