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City Park Remote: step out of the car, press the button and park!

In the previous issue of Innovation Committee, we introduced you to City Park Full Automatic. One year on from this prototype, we have taken this technology still further. With City Park Remote, you will soon be able to park your car or manœuvre out of your parking spot… while standing on the pavement!
To find out more about this new prototype, I talked to Damien Dueso and Patrice Galeron, driving aid innovation designers with PSA Peugeot Citroën.

When did you start working on City Park Remote?

We began working on a system for the remote control of parking manœuvres in autumn 2014.
We started off from the existing City Park Full Automatic system, completed in summer 2014. We then transferred part of the HMI (Human-Machine Interface) and part of the controls to a smartphone app outside the car.
We worked inhouse without bringing in any outside suppliers. We wanted to create our prototype and address any problems using our own technologies and ideas. It was really important for us to break away from existing services.

How does the remote control work?

First, we established the control algorithms specific to the car. These include, for example, establishing distances from obstacles, based on feedback from the ultrasound sensors and cameras, ensuring that the braking system and gearbox are ready, that the engine and battery are operational and  ̶  above all  ̶  making sure that the vehicle is at a standstill and cannot move. When these basic safety rules have been met, the vehicle informs the smartphone that it is ready for remote activation. Depending on what the vehicle detects around it, the person controlling the smartphone can ask it to move.
The smartphone interface is really simple. It has one button authorising the vehicle to move and another to switch the engine on and off. Very few functions are currently authorised in terms of user action and this is a deliberate choice. Our aim is not to develop a fully remote controlled car even though this would be totally feasible.

The controls authorised from outside the car are currently just: open/close, undertake a single, short drive, and switch the engine on/off.
These safety rules are based on common sense but they are fundamental.

So the car is also safe when it is on the move?

Yes, we made sure that the vehicle would be able to stop on its own and to identify any immediate obstacles, even if they appear without warning.
The City Park Remote function is a level 2 driving aid as defined by the OICA (International Organisation of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers). This means that the driver must continue to monitor the vehicle’s movement within a restricted area, i.e. a few metres around the target location.

How are the smartphone and vehicle connected?

The prototype currently relies on a WiFi connection for the fast transfer of information. For this prototype, we worked on a small app running on Android. Our main aim was for it to be easy to operate.
In the longer term, we will need to focus on:
– hypersecurity, to avoid malicious actions and keep full control over the vehicle when it is moving
– user proximity: users must remain within reach of the car so that they can monitor the environment when the vehicle is moving.
We could use either the same principle as the automatic unlocking function, where antennas are able to precisely locate the key when the driver approaches, or Bluetooth. The question has not yet been settled. The aim is to ensure the safety of our customers while making sure that the service can run in all conditions.

So you can control the car from the outside?

For the time being, the main use is for parking, with the remote function connected to City Park. In particular, when the car is parked in a spot that is difficult to access. We aim to make it easier for our customers to use their vehicles and to access parking spots. Remote-controlled access could be useful for drivers of reduced mobility, as well as people loaded down with shopping, families with children parked in narrow spaces… this technology could have practical applications in all sorts of situations.

What is the next stage?

In the medium term, our aim is for drivers to be able to rerun a route already completed, enabling the car to recognise an environment where it has already been. This would be really useful for people who need to get in and out of the same narrow parking spot every day!

In the longer term, vehicles will be able to park alone on a fully autonomous basis, without driver supervision.

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