Are you one of those people who like the convenience of valet parking, but always find yourself handing over your car key with a nervous feeling in your stomach? If so, then help might soon be available. In the future, thanks to the invention of a French firm called Stanley Robotics, you won’t have to worry about attendants going Ferris Bueller with your automobile in your absence. The company’s valet-parking robot takes the human factor out of the process, and instead autonomously whisks your car away to a safe parking space. What looks like science fiction is already being trialed in the real world.
Passengers at the UK’s Gatwick Airport will soon be able to try out this automated parking system for real when a trial run starts later this year. During this test period, travelers first book their parking slot from a mobile app and then simply leave their car at a dedicated drop-off zone outside the airport. From there, the robot (nicknamed Stan) takes over. First, it slides a forklift-style ramp underneath the vehicle before lifting the car up by its wheels (hopefully gently). It then uses precision GPS to ferry the vehicle to a secure parking area, and because the system scans the size and the shape of each automobile that it moves, it should hopefully do so without denting anything.
Stanley Robotics claims that there are a few worthwhile benefits to doing things this way. For starters, nervous car owners never have to hand over their keys to anyone, as the valet robot moves vehicles without ever needing to access the cabin. Then the firm says that because the doors of the cars never have to be opened, its system can make far better use of available parking spaces, packing cars like sardines and moving them around if and when needed. Assuming the system works as designed, it should also provide added convenience upon the driver’s return, as the booking is tied to the flight number. The company promises that when the passenger arrives at the pick-up zone, the car will already be there, ready to be driven away.
Whether all of these things will work as planned remains to be seen, but past trials in France and Germany appear to have been quite promising. According to one of the company’s founders, during a pilot project at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris last year, most people didn’t even notice that a robot was involved and were simply happy to drop off and pick up their car without hassle. The UK trial will last for three months and start in August, during the main holiday season. For this to work, a section of an existing long-stay car park at Gatwick will be closed off and fitted with a robot-friendly road surface. The people behind the system claim that Stan the autonomous attendant is so efficient in the way it parks cars that it will turn the existing 170 spaces made available for the test into 270 robot-valet parking spots.
Now, if we could please have a system like this for the malls in the Philippines…