Thursday, March 09, 2006

robot garages


Space in urban cores, is an incredibly valuable asset, it goes without saying. But the modern lifestyle depends on the personal automobile to such a degree that life without a car in America is almost necessary in some locales (like NYC) while impractical almost everywhere else (LA). The tight conurbations of Europe make this issue more severe, and the conditions in the cities of the emerging world like Shanghai, Bangkok and Mumbai exemplify how croded the future may be.

This leads us to one of the biggest time wasting moments of the urban car driver: finding an open parking space and then squeezing into it, hoping that the cars surrounding you will not come as close to hitting you as you just did to them. Or, worse and especially for women, there is the position of seeking your car in a dark and desolate parking fortress, your keys scrunched into a makeshift weapon between the knuckles of your fist. There is the pollution of running all of those cars in a confined space, espcially if some of them are circling around and around. Then, there is the risk of theft and that wary feeling we get handing our keys to some valet who could be turning donuts in an adjacent lot with our Ferrari for all we know, a la Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Back to the issue of space: the city of Boston was home to the biggest transportation project in history, the Central Artery or 'Big Dig', which after several decades and billions, has put a minor chip in the problems of your average Hub commuter. Then there is exorbitant fees chraged in tickets, fines and towing, especially during snow season. Add to this the problems above and the sheer wastefulness you see in a tiny wedge of alleyway holding perhaps a dozen cars
all fit in a tight jigsaw configuration.

The solution is to build robotic parking garages that can automatically park cars. You drive up onto a huge turntable, get out, remove little Sally and Fido if they are there, wave a keycard and their car will be whisked away into a massive vertical storage system. Not only is it safe, clean and efficient but other automatic services could be added: car wash, wax and detail, even mechanic diagnostics and repair. And all of this can be squeezed into tight spaces where no human can fit. Anybody want to invest?

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