Robot Parking Garages

Slate: The Valet You Don’t Have To Tip

Once the car is settled, you turn off the engine, collect any small children or animals, and leave the vehicle to begin its journey to the center of the Earth. To send it on its way, you wave a keycard device at a small panel right outside the parking chamber, then press the “yes” button when asked if you turned off the engine and collected any small children or animals. The garage door creaks shut, and the turntable rotates 45 degrees, so the front of your car faces the room’s back wall. Before the car descends, the metal rectangle does a cute little waggle to remove any rain, sleet, or snow that your ride might have brought from the outside world. Then the car quickly and smoothly disappears. A few seconds after you press your nose against the garage-door windows, your vehicle is out of sight.

The underground vault that stores the car is arranged like a closet outfitted with a pair of giant shoe racks. The cars are stacked in columns four-high along two walls. Similar to a subway, two tracks and one electrified rail carry each vehicle to its steel cubby hole. After the car-bearing pallet drops into the vault, it moves laterally to the closest size-appropriate space. The taller top row is reserved for SUVs, the bottom three for cars. Once the car sidles up to its berth, an empty pallet that’s sitting in the space slides out, and the car-bearing pallet slides in. The empty pallet moves up to replace the one that vacated the parking room. The whole process takes about a minute and a half.

Retrieval is similar: Swipe the keycard in front of a screen in the building’s coffee bar, the elevator, or the garage itself. No need to remember that you’re in row A-4 or the southeast lot; the card knows which space you’re in. The pallet drops down from the parking room, switches places with the pallet holding your car, and the car-bearing pallet zooms back up. Once the car is back in the parking anteroom, the turntable rotates, showroom style, until your car is facing the out position. The garage door opens, and you’re free to drive away.

I like it!

I’m guessing it’s not real, though, since the story is dated April 1. The problem with the idiotic April Fools tradition is that 1/365th of all stories posted by the media are suspect. It’s sort of a cute thing for 2nd graders. Why do mainstream media outlets participate, though?

(As an aside, while I really like Slate alot, it’s organization is among the worst on the planet. It sometimes takes me three or four days to find a story because of the way they rotate the featured articles.)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. GORDON says:

    I saw these things in Japan back in ’99. It exists.