Automated Robotic Parking

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How Robots in Parking Garages Can Advance New Urbanism

Posted on | May 14, 2012 | No Comments

Robotics and information technology are migrating off the factory floor and appearing in the most remarkable places. Boomerang Systems, an exhibitor at the Congress for the New Urbanism conference last week, outfits garages with automated parking systems. In projects where construction costs are high or land is valuable, it can make economic sense for property owners to invest in the company’s RoboticValet service.

RoboticValet works like this: A passenger drives his car onto a foot-high palette. A robot the shape of a giant gift box slips under the palette and provides the locomotion. Following electronic guides embedded in the cement floor, the robot steers the car to its parking space. The system conserves space in several ways: (1) there is no need for a ramp, only a car elevator, (2) robots can move the palettes sideways and can spin in place to change directions, (3) cars can be parked two or three deep and need no space for opening doors, and (4) there is no need to provide for passenger entry and exit.

RoboticValet isn’t cheap — the robotic system costs between $12,000 and $15,000 per parking space, says Rich Cline, Boomerang’s VP of business development. But, depending upon the circumstances, the system can cut the space requirements of parking decks in half. With structured parking costing between $10,000 to $30,000 per space, and twice as much if underground excavation is required, building owners can save a lot in construction costs or free up valuable space for lease to tenants. Other advantages: the robotic equipment can be depreciated more rapidly than buildings, money is saved on lighting and ventilation systems, and car owners aren’t at risk of dings and scrapes from maneuvering in tight places.

Boomerang Systems, which started as an automated self-storage enterprise, got into the business after developers and architects asked for a more space-efficient way to park cars, says Cline. The first system was installed October in Crystal Springs, N.J., another is going into a condominium project in Miami, Fla., and the company has 10 projects under contract to deliver 3,000 parking spaces over the next 18-24 months.

Bacon’s bottom line: It will be interesting to see how this business progresses. The technology is expensive but in the right projects it can bring down the cost of structured parking and it can free architects to be more creative with how they utilize space. By itself RoboticValet won’t significantly alter land use patterns, even if it proves commercially viable, but it is one more tool that can help make density work.


Adapted from Bacon’s Rebellion


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