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V-Charge system lets electric cars act as their own valets

By

August 12, 2014

V-Charge guides self-driving electric cars to open spots in transit station car parks

V-Charge guides self-driving electric cars to open spots in transit station car parks

Although the battery range of electric vehicles continues to improve, it's still quite likely that as EVs become more popular, so will their integration into larger transportation networks – in other words, people will drive their electric cars to transfer points such as train stations, instead of making entire long trips solely by driving. With that in mind, the European V-Charge consortium is developing a system whereby users can just step out of their vehicle when they reach a public transit station, leaving the car to head off on its own to find a parking spot.

In order for a car to work in the V-Charge system, it must be equipped with eight onboard cameras of the type already used in parking assistance and emergency braking systems, along with a self-driving system.

Here's how the process works ...

When users first arrive at the station, they get out of their car and use a smartphone app to let the car park's server know that a car needs to be parked. That server then connects with the car, sending it a map to an available parking spot. That map includes a photographic point-by-point layout of the car park – by comparing images in that map with images from its own cameras, the car is able to determine where it is on the route.

Driving themselves, vehicles travel no faster than 10 km/h (6 mph), and automatically brake or maneuver to avoid hitting one another. Additionally, the server chooses routes and parking spots that are optimized to keep traffic flowing smoothly and quickly.

Once parked, cars can top up their batteries at integrated charging stations. When the user returns to the station, they just use the same app to summon the car to come pick them up.

There are already two demo cars using the V-Charge technology in Wolfsburg (Germany) and Zurich, with a third in the works. The system should work in any existing car park, although before it can see widespread use, it still needs to be tweaked in order to deal with unpredictable variables such as pedestrians.

It is hoped that a full-scale V-Charge demo system will be up and running by next September. Beyond that, there's even the possibility that the technology could be adapted to allow cars to park themselves on city streets.

Sources: CORDIS, V-Charge

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
4 Comments

I think this is inferior to the other limited self drive systems out there.

Slowburn
12th August, 2014 @ 07:54 pm PDT

Improve & install with other Self drive systems alone

See Cruise Automation.com

Love the idea, awesome, now Lisc for other non EV car makers to produce.

Stephen N Russell
13th August, 2014 @ 08:42 am PDT

So you have paid a premium for an electric vehicle, arriving fashionably late for the train, click the "app" and walk away..

As the server finally links up with your vehicle, it's sorry lot full.. please try again latter, now your vehicle is dumbfounded and blocking traffic.

Upon your return, you once again click "app" only to be notified that your vehicle has been removed, and can be retrieved @ impound lot #x!

or it finally actually starts to roll along to the designated spot, parks. Then unless it's induction charging, Who opens the port, and plugs it in? or removes it after your return?

Bob Flint
13th August, 2014 @ 09:53 am PDT

@ Bob Flint

Clearly the system will use on of the myriad of Auto connect systems.

Slowburn
15th August, 2014 @ 09:54 pm PDT
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