Always wondered why there aren't more robotic parking systems in NYC, BOS, or SF. I remembered seeing a number of them when I was working in Tokyo in the early 90's...with land at $2400PSF (our project) to $25,000PSF (Ginza) it seemed liked the numbers worked in markets with high land prices, and where you can't get people out of their cars (like here).
The only one I was aware of here was in Hoboken, NJ. And Wired came out today with "Giant Robot Imprisons Parked Cars".
Why don't we have more here? Politics, for one. And it is a real bummer when the cars fall down when they are not supposed to. Twice. Construction problems--structural steel was out of alignment--a big no-no on what is basically an overhead crane, pallet and pulley system. Facility was down for 26 hours once--an attendant's jacket was left on a parking pallet and fell into the machinery. Operator error.
I dug into the numbers. This is what I found.
Harvard engineering students did a very informative study you can download here. Cost to provide the technology is about $20K per space, exclusive of shell costs. Operating costs are about a wash. Savings really kick in on underground parking facilities greater than 2 levels, where the required volume is about half that of a self park facility. Economics work on small footprint (<20KSF) above grade facilities. Facility needs to be sized for SUV's--40% of cars sold today won't fit in traditional stackers. Looks like breakeven is about $300- 350/mo, with $150 of that for ongoing operations and capital reserves. We are not quite there yet in SF. All in costs are $35 to $45K/space.
Problem is Hoboken is a nightmare, How do you get end users over the bad press? Intellectual property is a new risk here. A vendor having the ability to completely shut my asset down--now that's a negotiating position.
I still like the automated concept, not as a money saver, but as a space saver and as an elegant way to decant people from their cars. The system needs to be valet staffed and the benefit is better security and the ability to mask the facade, since you don't need the 15 airchanges/hr typical of a selfpark.. Arrival sequence/queuing needs to be carefully thought out, both in and out, as the number of transfer rooms determine max input/output.
In summary, it works where the volume of the building restricts the amount of allowable parking [or storage] and reducing your cube from 4000CF to 1600CF per space makes economic sense. The all in cost is about the same--$45K/space, and op costs are about the same as those of valet parking.