Automated Robotic Parking

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Futuristic Parking Garage Opens in Britain

Posted on | October 1, 2010 | No Comments

Britain’s master-planned, mixed-use urban developments garner as many headlines for their financing woes and labor-contract disputes as for their vanguard architecture and residential amenities. Rarely would a parking garage feature among these complex’s biggest talking points, but not all garages are built to the specifications required by the Cube, a 450,000 square-foot site in Birmingham, hemmed in by a canal and surrounding businesses.

The solution, as Germany’s Wöhr Autoparksysteme saw it, was to burrow 65 feet below street level, pour a water-tight concrete bathtub and devise an intricate ballet between vehicles and mechanical pallets.

Wöhr has constructed more than 100 so-called automatic parking facilities around the world, and a description of their basic mechanics reads like a passage from a William Gibson novel. The sequence begins with a car passing through a discreet, street-level garage entrance. The driver scans an identity-recognition key fob issued by the residential building, drives onto an open, flat pallet and exits the vehicle. The pallet then descends into the garage’s belly, where it discharges the car beside others on a reinforced concrete shelf. When the owner scans the fob signaling his return, the sequence is reversed.

Known in Wöhr’s product catalog as the Multiparker 760, the Cube’s garage structure also contains a plush waiting area, where curious owners can monitor the mechanical derring-do on plasma screens. Wöhr estimated that wait times for Cube residents should not exceed three minutes.

Wolfgang Lenke, Wöhr’s managing director, thinks of his company’s model as a clever application of already-proven technology. “The system works like automated warehouses with lift-shuttle technology and software control,” he wrote in an e-mail. “This gains the fastest coordinated operations.” At the moment, only Cube tenants are scheduled to receive access to the garage; shoppers and day visitors will use peripheral parking.

Wöhr’s latest project on American soil was realized this year at 1706 Rittenhouse Square Street, a tony Philadelphia high-rise condominium. If your Flash player is enabled, visit its Web site and click “Parking” to view a Multiparker simulation, featuring cameos by a Porsche Cayenne and an Aston Martin V-12 Vanquish.

Adapted from Wheels blog, NYTimes


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