Mechanical.. Automated.. Robotic?

What is it all about, is it right for your project?

Mechanical Parking System


These parking systems are designed to save space, be energy efficient, and minimize pollution. Safety is maximized and crashes are minimized. Barely taking hold in the US, this technology is currently sweeping Europe and Asia. With LEED certifications taking significance in building design, it’s inevitable these parking systems will be added to the list that defines green development.

How It Works

The driver pulls into what’s known as a transport or loading bay, which looks similar to a one car garage. The driver closes and exits their vehicle. The system communicates with the driver to make sure the vehicle fits and is parked correctly, and the driver then departs the garage. After a brief safety check, the vehicle is transported vertically (up or down) and horizontally (right, left, forward or back) until it is brought to a vacant parking space. The system can be thought of as a large vending machine, with cubby holes for each vehicle to be stored in. When it’s time for the customer to pick up their vehicle, they can retrieve it using a kiosk at the garage or optionally by phone/internet/SMS. The vehicle is then delivered to the bay, where the customer can now drive straight out (the system points the vehicle in the correct direction to drive forward instead of having to back out).


The single biggest concern encountered from US developers is this; What happens if the system breaks down? Essentially, these systems utilize elevator technology. In New York City and elsewhere, many garages already use elevators to move vehicles between floors. Redundancy can be built in by adding duplicate equipment, transports, and operator override capabilities. Maintenance contracts for the equipment with one hour response commitments are obtainable. Using proper preventive maintenance practices, breakdowns are minimized. Backup generators for critical locations prevent shutdowns during a blackout. Throughout Europe the track record for these parking systems speak for themselves, with the experience being that these systems run well and breakdowns are not a significant factor.


A study on the reduction of environmental pollutants by utilizing a parking system versus a conventional garage was performed by the environmental engineering firm EEA Consultants Inc. A conventional garage with a 350 vehicle capacity was compared to a like size automated parking garage operated by WPS Parking.

The methods, input parameters and calculations used were based on procedures developed for New York City’s City Environmental Quality Review Technical Manual. The hourly arrivals and departures to the garage were based on the patterns measured at a similar sized garage in Midtown Manhattan by Sam Schwartz Engineering, PLLC. Impact on air pollution was determined by scientifically accepted models as referred to by EEA, “Vehicle emission factors (in grams of pollutant per vehicle-mile or per hour of idling) and fuel use (mpg) for an analysis year of 2008 were determined using the USEPA’s MOBILE6.2 mobile source emissions model (User’s Guide to MOBILE6.1 and MOBILE6.2 Mobile Source Emission Factor Model, EPA420-R-03-010, August 2003). MOBILE6.2 emission factors were based on travel speed, vehicle classification, and engine thermal conditions. The speed within the garage was assumed to be 5 mph. Classification represents the proportion of the various types of vehicles.”

The results are impressive; Volatile organic compounds were reduced by 68 percent, carbon monoxide by 77 percent, nitrogen oxides by 81 percent and carbon dioxide by 83 percent. The fuel savings also averaged 83 percent.

The study is titled “Air Quality Study Automated Parking System, EEA Consultants Inc., 2007″.


These parking systems reduce driver exposure to crime, they practically eliminate thefts from vehicles, and no fender benders while parking. In a 1997 study performed by Lawrence A. Greenfield, the US Department of Justice found that one out of twelve rapes occur in a parking garage. When looking at the statistics of sexual assaults by strangers, over 40 percent of them occur in garages. Automated parking with its bay sensors and surveillance, nearly eliminate these concerns. In Europe, thefts in automated garages are just about non-existent. That is because no one but the owner of the vehicle has the keys, and it’s stored in a secure place without public access. The door dings, scrapes, and dents that plague a standard parking garage are eliminated. Vehicles are placed on pallets and when they are shuttled around, cannot make contact with another vehicle’s door, column, or wall. Auto insurance companies are bound to welcome the good news.


Most parking systems can store a vehicle away once every two to three minutes per loading bay in a system. While an incoming vehicle is being stored in the system, another pallet is being served into the loading bay, allowing another incoming vehicle to be stored. In addition, while one vehicle enters, the process to retrieve another vehicle to exit the system can begin. Internal trolleys can follow program commands to match demand patterns. In essence, automated parking can exceed the performance of most valet systems. Automated parking is not recommended for garages with surge demands such as found at arenas and manufacturing plants with pronounced departure times. For shopping centers, residential parking, institutions and many other developments, the performance of automated parking will efficiently get the job done.


Parking systems can make efficient use of the available space given for vehicle storage. Without the need for drive isles, wide gaps between vehicle parking spaces, and parking ramps, all this reclaimed space can go towards parking more vehicles. On average, thirty to fifty percent more vehicles end up fitting in an automated parking garage compared to a conventional one. In dense urban environments where space is at a premium, this advantage is paramount. Local zoning benefits may be derived from the use of automated parking. Where jurisdictions restrict construction by floor area ratio, significant bonuses could be derived with automated systems that don’t use floors per se. Using less space for parking could mean less excavation and construction costs, and more space for everything else. There is no doubt that a big part of automated parking’s success in Europe has to do with the competitive space advantage it has over conventional garages.


Cost is specific to site, so with multiple project variables involved it can end up costing more, or less than a conventional garage of the same vehicle capacity. For example, when excavation is required, the advantages of automated parking can result in construction costs being significantly cheaper than by building a conventional garage. When there aren’t any real site restrictions, an automated garage will cost approximately 40 percent more to construct. However, operating costs for a conventional garage are considerably higher with greater needs for maintenance, security, cleaning, snow and salt removal. The useful life of a conventional garage deck is about twenty years. Upon inspection of the earliest automated parking systems in Europe, they are showing little or no wear after fifteen years in service. These steel structures probably have twice the life of conventional garages. When all factors are considered (employee payroll/benefits, insurance expenses, garage repairs/maintenance), the cost of operating an automated garage can be less than half that of a conventional garage.


Parking systems are going to change the way we think about parking garages in urban environments. They require less space and are far less polluting. Parkers will be safer and there is less physical damage. The higher capital costs are outweighed by lower operating costs and leaner space requirements. In all, the benefits of automated parking are too significant to ignore and the US will eventually embrace the concept.