Fully automatic parking thanks to intelligent sensor tech and ‘Ray’

Everyone is familiar with the
frustrating search for a free parking spot. Even more so if the driver has a
plane or train to catch. But now ‘Ray’
is on hand to help when this is
the case. ‘Ray’ is your quick, convenient, and time-saving solution
for organising a parking space.

‘Ray’ is your personal
parking assistant – it finds the right spot, independently parks cars, sorts
them, and collects them again.

serva transport systems GmbH has already brought this
futuristic parking idea into the present. ‘Ray’ arranges
the cars in the most space-efficient manner possible. They are dropped off at a
transfer station where they are also collected
again. Drivers no longer need to search for a parking spot; the system takes care of it for them. The
only thing they have to do is drop off and get out of the car.

But as simple as this sounds,
high requirements are placed on the building and operating of robot systems
that drive cars autonomously.

Parking robot with sensor intelligence

The central element of the
system is the parking robot ‘Ray’, an automated guided system. This robot is a type of
forklift for cars and features four fully movable and independently powered
wheels. ‘Ray’ lifts the car up, moves it to the designated spot, and
also brings it back again. It is the key to the parking revolution at serva transport systems GmbH and has to have
its sensory abilities because ‘Ray’
can only do its job reliably
with intelligent sensor solutions. Many test runs have already been carried out
successfully, e.g., at Düsseldorf Airport.

SICK sensor solutions in the ‘Ray’ parking robot

Automatic guided systems require
a whole host of sensors for contour or reflector-based navigation, for rough
and fine positioning, for measuring and identifying, as well as for optical
data transmission. And let’s not forget person protection, which, of course, is
extremely important in such applications. This
is because in automatic mode, people in particular need to be protected against
collisions with these vehicles that are often very fast and heavily loaded.

The ‘Ray’ parking
robot’s safety concept, in addition to person
protection on all sides, also includes speed and direction detection, emergency
stop, interior presence detection, as well as multiple safety controllers to
master the particular complex, kinematic challenges that ‘Ray’ faces.
The concept aims to protect people against safety hazards, prevent damage to
cars, minimise stop times, and reduce
maintenance costs. What’s more, this concept is also compliant with all
relevant standards and directives for automated guided systems.

Measuring and identifying with LMS

Multiple LMS100 laser scanners
measure the car to be parked. They determine the dimensions of the car and
classify it. Wheel distances and diameters are also measured. The data recorded
is sent to the system software. This
allows the parking robot to know how to adapt to
the particular car automatically. Incredibly precise data is required to
identify the right car and to park it in the most space-efficient manner
possible. A laser scanner also monitors that there are no protruding parts that
could be damaged (e.g., side mirrors).

Knowing the right path

The robot, which moves
autonomously across the parking area, uses the NAV350 navigation scanner for
orientation. This scanner leads the AGV
along the guide track and localises its
exact position. It also provides precise spatial contour and reflector data,
which are outputted via an Ethernet
interface. A specially developed navigation control system is able to accurately position the parking robot
within a few millimeters. To save
as much space and time as possible, ‘Ray’ can even rotate in
position. These are complex movement sequences to which the sensors must adapt.

Protection with safety laser scanners

The S3000 Expert and S300 Mini
Remote safety laser scanners ensure that the parking robot is truly safe. The
necessary protective fields surrounding the parking robot are monitored to
avoid collisions and protect pedestrians. This
is an incredibly demanding task for the sensors. Not only do the protective
fields need to adapt to the changing,
car-specific dimensions of the parking robot, they must also dynamically adjust
to altered movement directions and speeds
since the robot can move in all directions. This
results in an extremely high number of possible evaluation cases.

Well-connected sensors

All of the parking robot’s
sensors are optimally connected and coordinated with one another via
controllers. Here, integrated safety is provided by two Flexi Soft safety
controllers, which directly communicate with the laser scanners via a safe bus
connection to protect all paths of the moment.
The control principle can be considered the core of the parking robot’s sensor
equipment. That’s why SICK has already been
actively involved in the development process from the very beginning.
The basic design was conceived together with the Fraunhofer IML in the
prototype stage. As the design was put
into practice, SICK specialists implemented numerous expansions and optimisations with serva transport systems GmbH, such as integrating the Flexi Soft
safety controllers with EtherCAT gateways and coupling the controllers
together.

Moving more with intelligent sensors

Automated guided systems are used in almost every industrial production
environment. Optimising processes so that potential for efficiency is tapped
right down to the smallest detail is a continuous task. Sensor and sensory
systems are the non-contact solutions for all challenges associated with the
many different vehicle controllers. Navigation solutions take things precisely
to their destinations without detours. Identification solutions ensure that the
right car is parked in the right spot.
Positioning solutions provide a fast and reliable material flow process, and safety solutions are required for avoiding accidents and damage.

Cars are made for driving. But cars spend more time parked than actually
on the road. ‘Ray’ – the innovative, fully automated parking system – was
developed to organise this ‘stationary
traffic’, to make life easier for drivers, and to save them a lot of time. SICK
sensor technology helps ‘Ray’
safely and reliably find the
parking spot and retrieve your car.

Written by Michael Dold, Strategic Industry Manager Industrial Vehicles,
SICK AG, Waldkirch

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