Startups / Transportation

STEER Tech wants to help your car to park itself

Following news that the technology would appear in a new Columbia development, CEO Anuja Sonalker talked about the system that's designed to let drivers leave a car while it parks.

STEER Tech has been testing in Maryland. (Courtesy photo)

When ground was broken on a new development in downtown Columbia earlier this month, tech was clearly at the center of the conversation. After all, cybersecurity company Tenable is the anchor of a new 12-story building in the Merriweather District.
The Howard Hughes Co.–helmed effort is also looking to integrate new approaches to moving around. The announcement also featured news that Annapolis Junction–based STEER Tech would be introducing technology  in the neighborhood that makes cars self-parking in the neighborhood.
Intrigued, we caught up with STEER CEO Anuja Sonalker to learn more about a Maryland company developing autonomous vehicle technology. Sonalker has experience working in automotive cybersecurity company TowerSec (which was acquired in 2016 by HARMAN), as well as Battelle.
Sonalker said that while automotive and tech giants are trying to make fully autonomous technology for cars on the road, she wanted to offer something that solves a more immediate pain point and saves time upon arrival at a destination.
“What I felt from my research was the parking space is something that is very real [for drivers],” she said. “Everyone that owns a car or drives a car hates to park a car because when you use a car, you can’t just let that car go.”
STEER Tech’s system essentially turns a standard car into a driverless vehicle for the purposes of finding a spot and parking. It’s designed so drivers can leave the car. Then, a system within the vehicle locates an open space and parks itself. When ready to leave, the system locates the phone, and returns the car to the driver.

The system creating the autonomous parking must be installed in a car by a certified provider, and corresponds with a mobile app that is paired with the vehicle. Sonalker said parking lots and garages will work with STEER Tech through a partner program to make the service usable for their spaces. Once the join, STEER enables lots with autonomous parking to be detected by drivers with the app.
The company, which has a team of 10 people, is based out of flex space in Annapolis Junction which has room for testing. Earlier this year, the company received permission to allow further testing at a state highway administration park-and-ride lot and BWI’s parking garage under a permit for Connected and Automated Vehicle testing. With a background in automotive cyber, Sonalker said safety and security are key for the company.
Sonalker said the company is currently in “high-growth mode” as it looks to make the technology available in 2019.

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