Mercedes-Benz and Bosch have revealed that the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA), has approved their automated parking technology for commercial use. The jointly developed system will offer Mercedes customers an SAE Level 4 driverless parking service at the P6 APOCA parking garage in Stuttgart Airport. Both companies have said that it is one of the first L4 driverless parking functions to be approved for commercial use.

The service experience begins through the Mercedes me smartphone app (available for iOS and Android devices), where the user books a parking space ahead of their visit to the airport. On arriving at the parking garage, they drive to a pre-assigned drop-off point before exiting the vehicle. Once they and any other occupants have departed, the app authorizes the start of the autonomous parking maneuver. At the same time, the parking system ensures the vehicle’s route is clear and that the necessary technical requirements for its journey are met. If those checks prove successful, the user receives a push notification from the app informing them that the system has taken control of the vehicle. The vehicle then autonomously drives to and enters the parking space, where it stays until the user’s return. On their return, the app is used again to summon the car, while the system helps it drive to a pre-determined pick-up point.

Supporting this experience from start to finish is the pairing of Mercedes-Benz’s Intelligent Parking Pilot feature and Bosch’s autonomous infrastructure. This infrastructure largely consists of sensors placed around the P6 parking garage that monitor the driving corridor and its surroundings, sending out information that will help the vehicle navigate it. Upon receiving this data, the vehicle converts it into a set of driving instructions. It is this connectivity, and Mercedes-Benz’s technology, that allows the vehicle to navigate the parking space and ramps to reach different stories independently. It can also cease navigation if an obstacle is detected along the way (resuming once the route becomes clear).

Mercedes-Benz and Bosch’s plans to commercialize the technology follows a trial period that began in 2019, when the firms obtained an autonomous testing permit. Over the course of this trial, development vehicles performed standard, everyday, parking tasks without human supervision. These tests took place at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, also situated in Stuttgart.

With the new permit, Bosch and Mercedes-Benz can now scale these operations up to a commercial level, occurring with privately owned vehicles at the P6 parking garage. While citing the 2021 enactment of a law permitting L4 driving use cases by the German government as a key factor in its development, the companies also highlighted that the system was implemented with support from the KBA and the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport.

While a launch date for their autonomous parking service has not yet been confirmed, Bosch and Mercedes-Benz are looking to gradually roll it out. The first models to benefit from it will be variants of the OEM’s S-Class and EQS vehicles built after July 2022 equipped with Intelligent Park Pilot. Offered as part of the OEM’s Mercedes me connect suite of connected services, the feature was showcased earlier this year at a press event in Los Angeles. At the time a release date was not advised due to both firms awaiting regulatory approval. When it does become available for the OEM’s customers in Germany, it will appear in the services menu of the Mercedes me app – ready for activation.