It might only apply to one parking garage for now, but Mercedes-Benz and Bosch are seeing this seemingly small step as a big milestone. The two companies announced on Tuesday that they had received approval from Stuttgart authorities to operate their driverless valet service in the parking garage that serves the Mercedes-Benz museum.

Since a safety driver is no longer required, this makes it the first Level 4 automated parking function in the world to be officially approved for everyday use. What this essentially means is that drivers can get out of their car after entering the parking garage and send their car to a parking space just by tapping on their smartphone screen. The system automatically assigns a parking space to the car and the rest happens autonomously. When the driver is finished with his or her business, another tap on the app sees the car returned to exactly the same place where the driver left it.

Mercedes-Benz E-class cars have been given the government OK for an autonomous valet-parking program at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Germany. That’s right, if this pilot program (as we expect) is the start of what will someday be commonplace, say goodbye to the punk changing your radio stations, turning off your automatic climate control, stealing your change, or doing burnouts while you’re off dining somewhere. And no more problem with parking too close to another car, either: Bosch says the fully automated garage of the future could hold 20 percent more cars because driverless valet tech will make closer-proximity parking possible.

The companies have also put significant effort into ensuring that the parking maneuver is executed with precision, while in-vehicle sensors are also in place to detect pedestrians and other cars in its path – anything in the way and the car comes to an immediate halt. But it’s not just the car that requires smart infrastructure – Bosch sensors in the garage itself monitor the process and provide guidance to the vehicle.

The system has been in testing since 2017, with museum visitors getting to experience the technology firsthand, but until now the rules have required that a safety driver be present in the vehicle. In this case, Bosch supplies the sensors and communication infrastructure in the parking garage to tell vehicles where to go. Mercedes-Benz supplies the vehicles with the proper self-driving equipment. Unlike vehicle-based advanced driver assistance systems such as GM Super Cruise, Tesla Autopilot, and Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive, all the commands come from the parking garage, including pedestrian and other object detection.

We can’t but wonder when and if this will be available for our South African consumers as “valet parking” is not really a thing for us. With that said, we can also think of a few ways to make use of this amazing breakthrough feature.

By Noni Nchwe