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Volkswagen’s 10-year evolution of Park Assist; heading toward trained parking and higher levels of autonomy

Volkswagen first introduced a parking assistance system based on ultrasonic sensors in the early 1990s. However, it was the “Park Assist” Gen 1 system presented in the Touran in 2007 that marked a foundational point in the commercial development of the technology. After it was activated, Park Assist was able to detect parallel parking spaces on the left and right sides of the road as the car passed them using special, side-oriented ultrasonic sensors, enabling semi-automatic parking for the first time.

Volkswagen engineers have continued to enhance the functionality, leading to the release of Gen 3 Park Assist in 2014, with a clear roadmap to the deployment of higher levels of autonomy, including trained parking: fully automated parking with a one-off training process. At a recent visit to Volkswagen’s Ehra proving ground (Prüfgelände Ehra), Green Car Congress had the opportunity to see a prototype of trained parking in action.

The functionality of Park Assist Gen 1 was rather limited. A maximum of two moves were possible and only reverse parking into parallel spaces was supported. Parking space detection occurred as a distance of 0.5 to 1.5m, at speed of up to 30 km/h (18 mph). The target space needed to ample: “vehicle length plus 1.40 meters”.


Two ultrasonic sensors acquired the dimensions of parking spaces (either the left or right side of the street. The sensors reliably acquired parked cars and associated parking spaces up to a maximum distance of 1.5 meters.

After evaluating the sensor data and detecting the parking space, the system automatically computed the ideal path for parking the car. The driver indicated his/her intention to park by pressing a button. The system then gave the driver the necessary information on parking spaces and the parking process.

The driver activated steering assistance by shifting to reverse gear. The Parking Steering Assistance control module then drove the electromechanical power steering to guide the vehicle into the parking space independently. During the entire parking process—completed in about 15 seconds—the driver just needed to press the gas pedal and brake.

At the 2008 Hanover Fair, Volkswagen presented the “Park Assist Vision” concept in a Passat, which introduced parking in a perpendicular space. The concept relied on two cameras located in the left and right exterior mirrors, two additional cameras at the front and rear of the vehicle as well as the system’s ultrasound sensors.

In 2010, Volkswagen introduced Park Assist Gen 2, which introduced multi-maneuver parking, reverse parking into bay parking spaces (perpendicular parking), and a space requirement of 40 cm (15.8 inches) front and rear for parallel parking.

Complex scenarios such as parking on the curb (half or entirely), between trees or on curves were also added. Integrated braking assistance allowed braking the vehicle to a stop before obstacles to minimize or avoid damage.

Park Assist 2.0. Click to enlarge.

The augmented functionality relied on twelve ultrasonic sensors on the vehicle as well as increasingly complex algorithms.

Park Assist Gen 3 in 2014 introduced forward parking into bay parking spaces, with 35 cm (13.8 inches) clearance required left and right. Parking space detection occurred up at speeds up to 40 km/h (25 mph).

In addition, Park Assist 3.0 can automatically brake before an obstacle in critical situations to prevent damage or at least minimize it. The basic functions of the park steering assistant were also further improved by the use of a new feature that is known as a surroundings map. By determining the precise positions of all four wheels, the vehicle can be parked precisely on the curb.

Volkswagen has also added a “late decision” capability; a use case is a driver suddenly spotting a parking opening and essentially lunging for it: aiming the nose of the car into the space. Park Assist can then take over, clean up the approach, and park the vehicle. (Likely to be highly useful in parking lot mêlées over the holidays, although the Gen 3 assistant is not currently available in the US.)

Park Assist Gen 3 is categorized as SAE Level 1 driving automation: Driver Assistance. SAE J3016 defines Driver Assistance as “the driving mode-specific execution by a driver assistance system of either steering or acceleration/deceleration using information about the driving environment and with the expectation that the human driver perform all remaining aspects of the dynamic driving task.



An e-Golf demonstrates trained parking at Ehra. Click to enlarge.

With trained parking, Volkswagen is making a jump to SAE Level 4 functionality: High Automation, defined as “the driving mode-specific performance by an automated driving system of all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even if a human driver does not respond appropriately to a request to intervene.

Trained Parking is a logical progression from Park Assist. It uses existing sensors and makes innovative new functions possible using artificial intelligence.

— Dr. Andreas Titze, Head of Interactive Electronics, Volkswagen AG

During the training run, the vehicle uses its cameras to make a 3D map of the surroundings. The car can then recognize the surroundings and locate itself precisely (<10 cm (3.94 inches) of precision).

With this system, the key is not the sensors; trained parking occurs in well-defined scenarios, with the human driver being the training expert. The sensors will be used to detect obstacles in the way, but the essential task of the vehicle deciding whether or not it can drive on the given surface has already been answered implicitly by the training.

Volkswagen engineers are considering allowing stored maps to be transmitted to another car.



You could argue that VW has been too conservative and may have let a lot of IP slip by while Tesla went straight for it.
(The same could be said for nearly all the traditional car makers.)
I wonder will the equivalent of an "Android for cars" OS come out that will be able to hook up to some hardware standards (sensors and car control) that would enable all the "old" car companies to jump onto the AV bandwagon quickly without having to write their own Car OS.
It is a funny task - at some levels it is incredibly difficult (reading traffic, reading other motorists' intentions: and at other levels, it is just turn left, turn right, slow down speed up, stop.
Not very bright people can drive OK with no knowledge of maths at all, and yet it is still a work in progress for the world's technological elite.
Maybe deep learning will unlock it - sooner or later (and not much later).

Account Deleted

Cleary Tesla is years ahead of VW even though Tesla only started their work on it with a few people in 2010. Now it is 2016 and this is a quote from Tesla’s online shopping page for Model S, X describing their new fully self-driving option.

“All you will need to do is get in and tell your car where to go. If you don’t say anything, the car will look at your calendar and take you there as the assumed destination or just home if nothing is on the calendar. Your Tesla will figure out the optimal route, navigate urban streets (even without lane markings), manage complex intersections with traffic lights, stop signs and roundabouts, and handle densely packed freeways with cars moving at high speed. When you arrive at your destination, simply step out at the entrance and your car will enter park seek mode, automatically search for a spot and park itself. A tap on your phone summons it back to you.”

For a video showing all there feature in action on beta software see

VW and others need to get into the fully self driving business much faster. By 2025 I predict there will not be any sales left for cars that are not fully self-diving. Once the self-driving tech is here it is easy to install on all cars made in a very short time. It is easy because the self-driving tech is just software and tiny chips and sensors that can scale up for mass production in months. It does not take many years like batteries and power electronics for BEVs that require massive new factories to be built. For example, the world needs 100 of Tesla’s giga factories for the world to transition to BEVs only and end the ICE. Building that many factories giga factories will take 10 or 15 years and require between 500 and 1000 billion USD in investments.

Aaron Turpen

Tesla isn't "years ahead" and certainly isn't actively promoting their cars as being capable of fully automated driving. Tesla has little to lose if their cars get into trouble, which is happening, because of the misnamed "Auto Pilot" system. It's called BETA software for a reason. Note that the promotional page you quote uses FUTURE tense, not present. You also poignantly left out the huge disclaimer below that which clearly states that IT'S NOT REALLY AVAILABLE YET.

That doesn't even look at liability. Tesla makes a couple of thousand cars a month. Volkswagen makes tens of thousands. If VW put Tesla's systems into their cars and put it out to the public, they'd face billions in potential lawsuits and jeopardizes hundreds of billions in assets and tens of thousand of jobs globally. Tesla faces only a few million in losses and maybe bankruptcy and the loss of a few hundred jobs in California.

I'm sorry, but given their track records, I'd trust the safety systems in a long-awaited VW system over the "F the consequences" bulldog approach of Tesla any day. Between the low reliability findings for Tesla's vehicles and the human life consequences involved, I think prudence is far more justified.

Cars aren't smartphones.

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