If cars are going to drive themselves, they're also going to have to find parking spots by themselves. Several companies have been working for years to aggregate parking lot information, and there's been increased interest in using the sensors in cars to crowdsource live street parking information. Major auto supplier Bosch recently gave a demonstration on the streets of Detroit of how such a system would work.
Like other approaches, Bosch's service taps into the ultrasonic sensors already in many cars. The short-range sensors are typically used for proximity alerts and active parking assist systems in vehicles, such as those already offered by Bosch. Now the company is tapping into the sensors as a car drives down a street in order to scan for parking spots along the road. So even if you're not looking for spot yourself as you cruise down Main Street, your car can be automatically detecting open places and then sending the information up to the cloud to share with other drivers.
The information is overlaid on detailed parking spot maps of cities that Bosch has created itself. The company says it's mapped 20 U.S. metropolitan areas so far, and it plans to introduce the system with a major automaker before the end of the year.
In the demonstration I witnessed, the nav screen on a Tesla Model S revealed numerous open parking spots, with those most likely to still be available when we reached them marked in green (yellow is less likely and red means you probably won't reach the spot before someone else grabs it). Bosch includes information on pricing, as well as driver selected preferences. You can, for example, avoid any places where you'll be required to perform the dreaded parallel parking maneuver.
A Bosch spokesperson explained that Tesla would not be the first vehicle to use the parking service. The Model S was used merely for demonstration purposes because it had the dozen ultrasonic sensors required by the system.