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Parking Attendant 2.0 189

theodp writes "Would you trust a robot to park your car? That's the question facing New Yorkers as the city's first robotic parking garage opens in Chinatown. With new software and enough laser and radar sensors to make Fort Knox jealous, it's believed that the new facility — which can squeeze 67 cars in space that would otherwise hold only 24 — will not suffer the kind of glitches that caused the nation's first robotic garage in nearby NJ to drop and trap cars."
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Parking Attendant 2.0

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  • by ArsenneLupin ( 766289 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @06:41AM (#17902320)
    ... did not trap cars due to technical malfunctions, but rather due to a contractual dispute.
  • Get me one! (Score:4, Funny)

    by lemmen ( 48986 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @06:42AM (#17902324) Homepage
    Get me one so my wife can finally park her car normally!
  • I, Robot (Score:2, Funny)

    by SinVulture ( 825310 )
    Reminds me of the scences from I, Robot that showed the immense automated car storage system. I'm looking forward to Parting Attendant 3.0.
    • Re:I, Robot (Score:5, Funny)

      by Hanners1979 ( 959741 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @08:00AM (#17902722) Homepage
      I'm looking forward to Parting Attendant 3.0.

      A hairdressing robot?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hey! ( 33014 )

      Reminds me of the scences from I, Robot that showed the immense automated car storage system.

      It's kind of like when you see a Edwardian engraving depicting life a hundred years in the future. They'll show advances that haven't happened yet (e.g. everybody flying around in their own personal dirigibles), but miss other ones. I think in a world with robotics so advanced, it is unlikely that anybody will drive -- or be allowed to drive -- a personal automobile, except at the track. It's like the dawn of

      • . I think in a world with robotics so advanced, it is unlikely that anybody will drive -- or be allowed to drive -- a personal automobile, except at the track.

        I can't wait. It's a dangerous unproductive waste of time.

        They thought you or your servant would go to the telegraph office to send and receive your messages.

        This time around we ride in our servants.
    • by Elrac ( 314784 )
      A divorce-lawyering robot?
    • I'm looking forward to Parting Attendant 3.0.

      I haven't even seen 2.0, and the only experience I had with parting attendant 1.0 was when my Camaro got stolen and the cops found just the unibody. I don't think I want to see what 3.0 does. Probably won't even have to steal my car, it'll just be a truck that like slides the back over on top of it looking like a shipping container, and they just come back and pick up the parts 'round 3AM.

  • Not Really New (Score:5, Informative)

    by Garrett Fox ( 970174 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @06:44AM (#17902356) Homepage
    This isn't entirely a new idea. Tokyo already has space-efficient parking garages that stack cars using turntables and elevators. I think the images atop this link [techeblog.com] are fake, but the video appears real and this [blogspot.com] appears similar to what I saw from outside.
    • Re:Not Really New (Score:5, Informative)

      by Corporate Troll ( 537873 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @07:49AM (#17902690) Homepage Journal

      The picture you think is fake is an actual "garage" at VW. It's not something where you park your car, but it's where new cars are stored awaiting the customers. (You had a hint in the text, plus all cars in the picture are clearly VWs) It's in "Autostad" near Wolfsburg. [volkswagen.co.uk]

      It saves a bit space and is a nice to show off ;-)

    • Those pictures are very real, just the description is wrong:
      its in germany, not japan
      And its no garage, its a car "storage tower" near a vw plant, where people can "dial" their car, and it gets fetched to them.
    • Tokyo already has space-efficient parking garages that stack cars using turntables[...]

      Yeah, but after the Giant Discjockey Incident people are getting weary of all the scratching.

      *ba-dum pshh*

      Thank you, I'll be here all week. Tip your waitress.
    • Yep. I live in Japan right now, and these parking garages are everywhere. I pass about 3 on the walk to work each day, and I don't even live in a major metropolitan area.
    • Dude, my buddy's *apartment complex* in Berkeley had one like 3 years ago. What's this news about?
    • by costas ( 38724 )
      My hometown (Thessaloniki, Greece) has had robo-parking for at about 2-3 years now: PDF [pantechniki.gr]; I think it can hold 100-200 cars and works pretty well: takes a minute or two to "park" the car on the receptor and generally 5 minutes or so to retrieve it. Faster than actually walking up a parking deck, finding the car and driving out (never mind safer and with less potential damage to the vehicle).
  • Great idea! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CaptainZapp ( 182233 ) * on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @06:48AM (#17902384) Homepage
    They tried such a scheme (alas not quite as sofisticated) in the city of Zurich, Switzerland [wikipedia.org] a few years ago. You parked your car in a lift thingie, left it, acknowledged a sort of EULA in which you certified that you didn't leave life animals in your car and presto! Your car was parked fully automagically.

    The parking worked like a charm too. What didn't quite work was the retrieval of your car (which should happen within 120 seconds according to the specs). The city, as the owner of the garage, had to shell out a few nights in a nice hotel until the less lucky owners cars could be retrieved by manual intervention.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      acknowledged a sort of EULA in which you certified that you didn't leave life animals in your car

      Gee those Swiss are civilised. If the car park was outside an Australian casino the EULA would have to make you certify that you didn't leave your children in the car.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Kijori ( 897770 )

        Gee those Swiss are civilised. If the car park was outside an Australian casino the EULA would have to make you certify that you didn't leave your children in the car.

        I'm not sure I'd call it that civilized to keep your children alive while on car journeys...

      • ...make you certify that you didn't leave your children in the car.

        Given the behavior of most children I've seen in public lately, I'd say they fit firmly in the "animals" category.

  • Ok, the previous garage had serious problems, the current is (supposedly) OK.

    It would be interesting to know a bit more, specifically what were the main difficulties in building the system? It seems very simple - make sure that the car fits into a (virtual) box ( you can do that by first trying to fit it into a real box :-) ), then put the box into a free space.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Probably a Towers of Hanoi type problem. i.e. economically shifting other parked cars to liberate the one right at the back. Could probably overcome it by intelligent stacking using previous park times for the same number plate etc.
      So in short probably no problem from a codiing point of view - reliability of the 'robots' (read moving shelf thingies) is probably the real issue
    • Re:Not very detailed (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ctr2sprt ( 574731 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @07:39AM (#17902632)

      The fastest way to make this system really complicated is go with dynamic parking spot sizes. Then you'd need to figure out the dimensions of every car being parked and remember them, as well as periodically reorder vehicles to reclaim "dead" space. ("The parking garage is getting slow, we'd better run defrag!") This would be a really, really neat system, but it'd have to be perfect or the robot would slam cars into each other if it guessed their sizes wrong. And quite aside from the cost to repair the damaged vehicles (and probably the damaged robot as well), I'd be worried about some drunk kids riding in their cars as they're being parked (hell, I'm sober and I think it'd be pretty cool) and getting decapitated or something. Imagine the lawsuits coming from that one.

      You could also make the robots somewhat smart, like we do with elevators, and have them reposition cars intelligently based on when they are statistically more likely to be reclaimed. (At work, the parking garage elevators "park" at the 3rd floor at 7am, then gradually move up toward the 10th floor as the garage fills up.) So statistics may show that most people fall into one of two groups: people who park for about an hour, and people who park for about four hours. The robots could then, during idle time, find the cars which are likely to be recalled soon and move them closer to the entrance. This isn't just a convenience thing: if the robot is fetching a car, it can't put one in the garage, so the faster you can get cars in and out, the more cars (over the course of a day) you can store (and the more money you can make). This would be especially crucial for local events like sports games, where 20k people are all going to be getting their cars at the same time.

      • The system stacks cars in way that it needs to move one out to get to one that is behind it.
      • by sloth jr ( 88200 )

        I'd be worried about some drunk kids riding in their cars as they're being parked (hell, I'm sober and I think it'd be pretty cool) and getting decapitated or something. Imagine the lawsuits coming from that one.

        Oh, no need for something quite as dramatic as decapitation. The real problem is anyone riding in the vehicle - because how, then, would they get themselves OUT of the garage, especially if retrieval is through magnetic card system (so calling a friend to come retrieve your car wouldn't work). I'm

      • by GWBasic ( 900357 )

        This isn't just a convenience thing: if the robot is fetching a car, it can't put one in the garage, so the faster you can get cars in and out, the more cars (over the course of a day) you can store (and the more money you can make). This would be especially crucial for local events like sports games, where 20k people are all going to be getting their cars at the same time.

        You really don't need robotic parking for events where everyone shows up and leaves at the same time. In Boston, near Fenway park, du

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The one in NJ dropped cars? I remember it was shut down with cars inside by a contract dispute.

    I don't see the big novelty since there's been a variety of systems in Japan for a dog's age, but this is an American design, at least according to sharply-named Robotic Parking Systems's website. (Which I won't link to, since it has pretty much no actual content and is only missing the Monorail Song.)

    Do love this quote from the vendor in TFA: "What seems to have happened is that the developers have been wanting t
  • big deal! (Score:5, Funny)

    by keeboo ( 724305 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @07:14AM (#17902518)
    which can squeeze 67 cars in space that would otherwise hold only 24

    The junk yards have been doing that for years.
  • Very common in Japan (Score:4, Informative)

    by TorKlingberg ( 599697 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @07:23AM (#17902556)
    These automatic parking systems are everywhere in Japan. Especially in the craped city centers, but even many normal apartment buildings have them to cram in a parking spot for each apartment.
    • These automatic parking systems are everywhere in Japan. Especially in the craped city centers

      For a minute there I thought you were talking about Kuala Lumpur. There is a machine like that near the Hotel Malaya in KL. It is a horrible big steel thing. Four stories high. You wouldn't want to stick your hand in. It was working when I was there in 2000 and (surprisingly) still working a couple of months ago. I don't think its very automatic though.

    • These automatic parking systems are everywhere in Japan. Especially in the craped city centers, but even many normal apartment buildings have them to cram in a parking spot for each apartment.
      Here is the info page from a company that sells these systens, large and small.
      http://www.seiden-kousan.co.jp/html/parking.html [seiden-kousan.co.jp]
  • by MK_CSGuy ( 953563 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @07:29AM (#17902592)
    In my previous job (3 years ago) there was a robotic parking lot - you parked your car inside a garage-sized room and a robotic arm/elevator combo. using electro magnets parked it in the "lot" (if I remember correctly it was a shaft both underground and in the building itself). In the end of the day you put your parking-card thru the card reader and the robotic combo. brought it to the garage-sized room. It saved much space and is really cool. The disadvantages I saw where:
    a) 17:00 most of the people in the building finished their work. BAM, long line of workers infront of the garage-sized room. Sure, it can be solved with more "terminals" (aka the garage-sized rooms) but this takes more space. Also, altough in regular parking lots there is also a bottle-neck in the exit, I suspect they will usually be faster.
    b) in the first few weeks of the system's operation there were two accidents - the robotic arm with the elcetromagnets ripped of their roofs. This was solved with further tuning but needless to say that some people were afraid to put their car into this system :)

    Overall I think such a system is good if there is a space problem, but in terms of costs I really don't know how it compares.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      in the first few weeks of the system's operation there were two accidents - the robotic arm with the elcetromagnets ripped of their roofs.

      I hear that happens in Iraq from time to time as well :(

      I have to say I don't like the idea of picking the cars up by the roof with a magnet. Roofs are only designed to be structural in compression (if you roll over), not routinely as a way of moving the car around. What happens if the roof distorts slightly and stuffs up the seal around the doors?

      • I have to say I don't like the idea of picking the cars up by the roof with a magnet. Roofs are only designed to be structural in compression (if you roll over), not routinely as a way of moving the car around. What happens if the roof distorts slightly and stuffs up the seal around the doors?
        And, more importantly, what happens if you have a cabrio?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Software ( 179033 )
        The robotic arm was not supposed to touch the roof. It was moving to pick up some other car and happened to hit the roof of the unfortunate vehicle.
    • by sidb ( 530400 )
      I'd be pretty upset if I'd left a laptop in my car and someone tried to use a giant magnet on it. Or if I had tools lying around that damaged the interior when they went flying to the roof. Any number of things could go wrong. What a bad idea.
  • I guess I am already using the next -release, while my wife is only using -unstable.

    BA DA BING!
  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @07:48AM (#17902680)

    "It is a complete virtual impossibility that damage can occur," he said.
    Make up your mind. It's either impossible or it's not. If it's not, do those "we do not accept any responsibility blah blah blah" signs have any legal bearing? Because I really don't want to lose my no claims discount because of your car park.
  • by name*censored* ( 884880 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @08:13AM (#17902788)
    The real question is, do we still tip robots the standard 12%, or do they get 15% for doing such a good job?

    (disclaimer: I don't actually come from a "tipping" country, so I dont know if the 12% is correct)
  • Am I the only one who likes being able to get my car out if the grid is down? In the last major blackout I had to drive home to NYC, the next day I figured if I had no electricity I may as well go camping so I drove to NJ. One fuse blown and my car could be stuck for no good reason.

    I, for one, do *not* welcome our new robotic parking overlords.
    • There's nothing stopping them (unless there's new municipal codes of which I'm unaware) from having an emergency generator onsite.

      The 'one blown fuse' is something of another issue, though - what level of testing have all the components gone through?

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @08:46AM (#17902978)
    This is just a new application of automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) [wikipedia.org]. They've been around for quite some time in warehousing applications, particularly for manufacturing and libraries. They're particularly useful when dense storage of a wide variety of items is needed. They can be quite secure since you only have to control access to the user terminal to control what goes in or out. They also are generally very reliable and easy to use.

    The downsides? All that automation is pretty expensive. Unless one has fairly specific needs there usually are cheaper and simpler alternatives. There also is the risk of breakdowns and regular maintenance is of course required. Power outages obviously will shut the system down and prevent access. The biggest problem though is that if one isn't careful about data entry regarding where things are stored, doing physical inventory and finding lost items can be a BIG problem. If you say the item is in bin 6A and it's really in bin 7C, there is generally no easy way to find it other than searching bin by bin. Not fun even on a small AS/RS system. RFID and barcoding can help in some cases but it's still a serious challenge.
    • by Oscaro ( 153645 )
      Actually this is not even a new application. Here in Torino (Italy) there are at least three such parkins, and all of them are at least 10 years old...
    • If you say the item is in bin 6A and it's really in bin 7C, there is generally no easy way to find it other than searching bin by bin.

      This is actually an easy way to do inventory. You don't go through all the bins looking for product XYZ, you count them all at once periodically.

      When I was a student I used to drive a forklift at a warehouse of pharmaceutical drugs. We had various storage systems, including an immense automated one designed for pallets.
      It was 13 pallet-heights (you know what I mean :) and p

  • I have a friend who works for a contractor that's been doing a lot of renovations in Hoboken where the first garage is and to this day he say's that the police are there at least once a day because the robot tries to give somebody the wrong car. Parking your $75,000 BMW or Lexus and then having the robot try and give you back a mini cooper can really ruin your day.
  • ... automated parking garage and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
  • Moo (Score:2, Funny)

    by Chacham ( 981 )
    to make Fort Knox jealous

    You mean Fort Knox [slashdot.org] and jealous [slashdot.org] aren't the same person?

    Repeat after me: There is no spoon. [slashdot.org]
  • by lake2112 ( 748837 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @10:36AM (#17904054)
    I lived a block away from the Hoboken, NJ garage. Getting your car in the morning or the evening for rush hour usually required at least a 20-30 minute wait. Police were required in the evening to direct traffic around a bunch of cars waiting for a robot to load cars.
  • These parking garages that stack and rotate cars are all over Taiwan. I've seen small devices on streets that hold a dozen or so cars to very large arrays that hold an estimated hundred cars in the metro areas and for large condo/apartment complexes. Never seen a scrape yet. Of course in Taiwan traffic scratches and scrapes are a fact of life so how can you be sure.
  • These park-bots are everywhere in Germany. Many moons ago (1994) my building in Ruesselsheim (Opelstadt!), Germany, had one in the basement.
  • The first mechanized garage was built in 1932 and ran until 1979. This isn't even the first automated parking garage in New York City. There was one working around 1970.

    The layout was well worked out. It looked like a little parking garage with two stalls, with no sign of any machinery. You parked your car and got out. Then, solid barriers rose out of the floor around the car, a big freight elevator door opened behind the car, the pallet on which the car was parked moved into the elevator, the elevat

  • From TFA: There is no human supervision, but an attendant will be on hand to accept cash and explain the system to baffled humans.

    In a place like that, if that's all he's doing, I might be worrying about job security if I were that guy.

  • If I were designing this system, I'd consider charging more to park larger vehicles. There could be different sizes of storage berths, and the laser-wielding robot would measure your car and charge you for the smallest berth your car would fit into. People who think they need to drive an SUV to work would pay for more cubic meter hours.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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