While the big tech companies showcase the latest phones, TVs and computers, car companies continue to stand alongside them at the biggest consumer technology shows in the world. This week, it’s CES Asia in Shanghai and Ford are the first to showcase something very cool.
You pull up at a large car-park or hotel, hand your keys over to the Valet and your car is taken away and parked. That’s as close as most of us will ever get to having our car park itself.
Yet in China Ford have announced they are rethinking parking and using technology to change the way we all do that most basic thing.
With benefits for any driver in wet weather, for Valet operators and perhaps most tellingly the car-sharing programs in our major cities, there’s something very interesting about this idea.
Rather than develop the “self driving car” Ford is looking at testing the “remote re-positioning” of cars and they’e been testing it with a golf buggy or two.
It works like this. The vehicle is equipped with cameras, remote control technology and a high-speed mobile broadband connection.
It uses that connection to send data back and forth to the remote controller.
Working on a machine not dissimilar to a race-car simulator you’d find at a video arcade, a driver can then “hop behind the wheel” and move the car.
For Valet this means the drivers move from car to car with ease, never actually leaving their seat.
On a rainy day you could find a remote control station and move your car somewhere better to ensure you don’t get wet.
And with services like GoGet littering cars across the city at specific locations, they could respond to higher demand in another location by remotely controlling the car to move it to meet the demand.
It’s all a bit pie in the sky when you read it like that, but it’s another take on a global problem of supply and demand for vehicles, as well as the problems of parking and congestion.
Taking the parking analysis one step further, Ford has partnered with the Georgia Institute of Technology for another experiment they call “Parking Spotter”.
This one is like a crowdsourcing for car-space data.
Cars equipped with the technology can use their existing sonar and radar technology (which itself is used for among other things – finding a car space) to share and collect that space availability data in real time to provide a global view of available parking spots.
Whenever they are driven below 10 miles per hour, the vehicles in the trial are scanning for spaces and sending the information back to build that perfect parking map.
Imagine that on a grander scale, your car or an app on your phone could then be directing you specifically to a vacant car space!
Jim Buczkowski, director, Electrical and Electronics Systems, Research and Advanced Engineering, Ford Motor Company sees these as a big part of Fords future: “The mobility experiments at CES Asia are great examples of how Ford is rethinking innovation in this technological age,” said Buczkowski. “Both of these projects are using existing technologies in new ways, pushing the limits of what we can do to go further in improving mobility for all.”
Trevor Long traveled to CES Asia as a guest of Ford Australia