Detroit Smart Parking Lab to Open in September Near Ford’s Michigan Central Station

Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Bedrock in Detroit, and Bosch in Farmington Hills are working with the State of Michigan to launch the nation’s first-of-its-kind, real-world test site for emerging parking technology — called the Detroit Smart Parking Lab.
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Ford, Bedrock, and Bosch are working with the State of Michigan to launch the nation's first-of-its-kind, real-world test site for emerging parking technology. // Courtesy of Bedrock Detroit
Ford, Bedrock, and Bosch are working with the State of Michigan to launch the nation’s first-of-its-kind, real-world test site for emerging parking technology. // Courtesy of Bedrock Detroit

Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Bedrock in Detroit, and Bosch in Farmington Hills are working with the State of Michigan to launch the nation’s first-of-its-kind, real-world test site for emerging parking technology — called the Detroit Smart Parking Lab.

The lab opens in September, allowing mobility and smart infrastructure pioneers and real estate innovators and startups to test parking-related mobility, logistics, and electric vehicle charging technologies. Led by Enterprise, the collaboration also seeks to test more seamless and efficient rental car returns.

The Detroit Smart Parking Lab is located at Bedrock’s Assembly Garage at 1702 W. Fort St., between 10th Street and Rosa Parks Boulevard. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the collaboration Thursday at the Management Briefing Seminars hosted by the Center for Automotive Research in Traverse City, joined by representatives from all the participating firms.

The lab builds upon the automated valet parking demonstration led by Ford, Bedrock and Bosch in August 2020 when they showcased Bosch automated valet parking technology that allowed Ford Escape vehicles to drive and park themselves at Bedrock’s Assembly garage.

“Parallel parking or finding spots in busy, tight structures are some of the most stressful driving situations, which is why Ford invested heavily in innovations such as our parallel parking assistance technology,” says Craig Stephens, director, controls and automated systems at Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. “The Detroit Smart Parking Lab will help us collaborate with other innovators on even better solutions to make parking easier, so it doesn’t spoil an evening out.”

To spur other innovators exploring advanced parking technologies, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., in partnership with the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, has established the Michigan Mobility Funding Program where organizations can secure funding to develop and test parking-inspired mobility solutions within and around the garage.

“Finding parking in urban environments can account for as much as 30 percent of vehicle traffic and emissions,” says Heather Wilberger, chief information officer at Bedrock. “As the city’s largest real estate developer, these collaborations and programs allow us to develop, test, and implement advanced parking technologies to help reduce parking time and emissions, helping to drive sustainability benefits throughout our portfolio.”

Enterprise, the brand owned by the largest car rental provider in the world as measured by revenue and fleet, will test how automated valet parking technology can apply to the quick turnaround (QTA) process where rental vehicles are returned, serviced via cleaning and fueling (including charging), and then staged for future rentals.

The smart parking lab’s initial project examines how automated technology — specifically automated valet parking and EV charging technologies — can help enhance operational efficiencies through the QTA process. The project will examine the technical, operational, and financial feasibility of such technologies as part of the vehicle rental process.

“Participation in the DSPL project allows Enterprise to explore the feasibility and viability of autonomous, connected, and electrified mobility innovations with recognized technology collaborators,” says Chris Grayson, regional vice president at Enterprise in Detroit. “As consumer demand and infrastructure viability increases in the coming years, these types of vehicle technology will play an increasingly important role in both the future of sustainable mobility overall and our fleet at Enterprise.

The open innovation platform at this smart parking lab offers multiple ways for mobility organizations to use the facility independently, work together with founding members on a specific project or apply for grant projects.

Interested organizations can inquire about space in the lab, and collaborations by visiting the American Center for Mobility website. Information on innovation grants available to support projects utilizing DSPL can be found by visiting the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform.

Day-to-day operations of the parking lab will be managed by the American Center for Mobility (ACM) in Ypsilanti Township, a not-for-profit collaborative effort comprised of government, industry, and academic organizations focused on accelerating the mobility industry supporting advanced and scientific research, testing, standards, and educational programs.

“ACM has broad experience operating a 500-acre smart mobility test center where we’ve seen the power of testing emerging mobility technologies in intentionally challenging environments,” says Reuben Sarkar, president and CEO of ACM. “The Detroit Smart Parking Lab provides a new platform for ACM to introduce our operational excellence and client-base to, enabling further development of new mobility innovations.”

Nearby, Ford is building a mobility and innovation campus centered at the former Michigan Central Station at Michigan Avenue and 14th Street. The restoration of Michigan Central Station currently is in the middle of phase two of the restoration, the most labor-intensive part of the project. Work includes fixing the steel structure and repairing eight acres of masonry. Ford is still on track to complete the station by the end of 2022.

Ford’s campus revolves around four buildings: Michigan Central Station; the Book Depository, which sits just east of the station and is being revitalized into a maker space; The Factory, which is home to the company’s autonomous vehicle business unit; and a newly constructed development to the west of the station.

Overall, Ford’s vision includes creating an open platform for innovators, startups, entrepreneurs, and other partners from around the world to develop, test, and launch new mobility solutions on real-world streets, in real-world situations.

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