Robot Parking In Fact and In Fiction

The first robot parking garage to be opened in New York city will be ready for business this month. You can find it in Chinatown.


(From Robot Parking Garage in NYC)

The developers of the "robot" can now fit 67 cars in an apartment building basement that would ordinarily fit only 24. Here's how it works: first, you park your car on a pallet and get out. The pallet is lowered into the "garage" and then positioned in an open space.

It's all computer-controlled; it costs about $25 per day, which is competitive with other non-robotic parking in NYC.

Science fiction writers have been well out ahead of this trend. In his 1941 novel Methuselah's Children, Robert Heinlein wrote about an automated parking garage called a robopark:

Outside her friend's apartment [Mary] dropped down a bounce tube to the basement, claimed her car from the robopark, guided it up the ramp...
(Read more about Heinlein's robopark)

If you're thinking of buying the Robopark.com domain, you're too late; it's owned by Robotic Parking. They are a US-based firm that opened the first fully automated parking garage in Hoboken in 2002.

Frank Herbert briefly refers to a robotic parking garage in his 1977 novel The Dosadi Experiment and identifies a key element that makes it work:

He activated the grapple tracks. The skitter jerked into motion, danced sideways, and slid smoothly down the driveway to the street.
(Read more about grapple tracks)

The recent movie I, Robot also featured a very well-drawn automated parking garage. Will Smith is shown below "parking" his futuristic Audi.


(Robot parking garage from iRobot movie)

As with other software-controlled devices, problems can occur. A software "crash" in a robot parking garage can actually damage your car. The Hoboken garage dropped an unoccupied Cadillac Devile six floors in 2004.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/3/2007)

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