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Resistance is Futile: Robots Are Going to Park Your Car

Marianne Schaefer in Bricks & Bucks on April 5, 2017


Robo Park

An automated parking system, drivers not needed (image courtesy of Park Plus)

April 5, 2017

Co-op and condo boards are always on the lookout for additional sources of revenue – so their budget stays balanced and their monthly maintenance charges stay manageable. Many boards may not realize they’re sitting on an untapped gold mine: their garage and parking lot.

“We are very good at adapting and reusing existing spaces,” says Perry Finkelman, CEO of Automotion Parking Systems, a Long Island-based company that installs automated systems that stack cars in tight spaces and retrieve cars within minutes – without a driver. “For instance, in Manhattan you can build a robotic parking system 40 feet above grade with zero impact on your FAR (floor area ratio). This means that even if you don’t have any allowable building space on your property, you can still put in our system and go 40 feet high. That could mean a huge opportunity for co-ops and condos which are maxed out on construction space.”

An ideal space for building an automated parking system would be an existing parking lot, where cars could be parked several rows high. “Existing garages might be more problematic,” says Finkelman. “The spacing of the columns and the pipes might need to be relocated and all that might not be cost-effective.”

An automated system is environmentally friendly since engines don’t run inside the garage. According to Finkelman, the construction cost ranges from $24,000 to $26,000 per parking space, without any preparatory work.

Robotic systems can fail – not so much because of the robots, but because of human error. “Problems occur because people expect too much from the system,” says Ryan Astrup, a managing partner at Park Plus, a New Jersey-based company. “They drive the car in and then walk away without completing the parking process, like pushing the button. Or recently somebody pushed the emergency button instead of ‘store’ button, which shut down the whole system.”

Here’s a video of how an automated system is supposed to work.

But not to worry, Big Brother is always watching. Every automated garage is monitored 24/7 by technicians who sit in a room with a wall of TV screens and a live feed. “We can fix 99.75% of all problems immediately over the internet,” Finkelman says.

“Our service maintenance contracts include these monitoring services,” says Astrup, “and they cost two to three percent of the annual contract, typically between $45 and $75 per space per month.” When a system is newly installed, service contracts also include a human being on site to teach drivers how to navigate the system. “It’s a little bit like when we had the first ATMs,” says Finkelman. “In the beginning, all banks had somebody there to explain and help the customers. Now anybody can use them.”

Developer Stan Perelman, of Jani Real Estate, says, “We were the first to install this in New York City in 2008, at a high-end condominium in Tribeca. But I have to say our system is dated now. If a car doesn’t meet the specifications, is higher than six-and-a-half feet, or it comes in with a bunch of snow or ice on the fender, the system just rejects the car. These days the technology is much better.”

The robotic parking garage is still new in the United States, while it’s old news in Europe and Asia. Which is why Perelman sent staffers to Europe and China to research the technology before he hired Park Plus to install the automated parking system in Tribeca.

“We buy our systems in Germany,” Finkelman adds. “We think they’re the best in the world.”

PRINCIPAL PLAYERSAutomotion Parking Systems; Park Plus; Jani Real Estate.

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