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Robotic Valet Parking On Its Way In Chicago

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On: Thu, Jan 6, 2011 at 10:01AM | By: Chris Weiss

Robotic Valet Parking On Its Way In Chicago

Robots parking cars? Even taking into consideration how much technology has advanced over the past couple decades, that still sounds like pure fantasy. It also sounds like pure awesome.

Unfortunately for sci-fi and futuristic cartoon fans, the Green Park Eco Garage in Chicago isn't nearly as cool as human-like robotic servants taking your keys and manually parking your car. Instead, the robotic part refers to an automated parking system that helps cram double the number of cars into a confined city space.

Public officials including Illinois Governor Pat Quinn broke ground on the Eco Garage on December 3. The new green parking structure will be built this year and is scheduled to open next fall, in time for the holiday shopping season. It is located in the Bucktown district of the city.

The garage is being built by VLF Development LLC, which claims to be the only company authorized to build automatic garages in the city. When complete, it will offer parking for up to 100 cars, a number that VLF claims is double the number of cars that would fit into a traditional garage of its size.

When the driver pulls into the garage sensors read the vehicle's dimensions and determine if it will fit at the facility. The driver checks in at a computer terminal and a system of cameras, laser scanners, and a moving pallet stack the car into its respective spot in a configuration that looks like cars stacked on a neat set of shelves. The driver receives a claim ticket that is accepted by the computer upon return and activates the vehicle's return. The entire process takes around two minutes and requires no human hands (save for the driver's), a factor that VLF indicates will increase the safety of the vehicle.

In addition to maximizing the storage capacity of the garage space, the way storage systems maximize the storage space in your home or office, the Eco Garage will be green in a number of other ways. It is a LEEDS Gold-registered project and will use green materials and renewable energy in its construction. Because there is so little human involvement, the garage will not need the heating, cooling or lighting of a traditional garage, though one has to wonder if the energy saved will offset the energy needed to run the automated parking system. The system also eliminates emissions of vehicles that are otherwise manually parked.

To sum up, the age where robots park our cars is officially underway. And while it doesn't look as cool as it would in a futuristic thriller, it's still an innovative system that could prove to be the future of inner city parking.


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