A Robot Will Retrieve Cars at a Washington Condo Complex

Lisa Steuer McArdle
· 3 min read
Spire, an upscale condominium tower in
, will use a robot to store and retrieve cars underground.
The technology, installed by
-based ParkWorks, will help solve an issue with parking caused by Seattle’s conflicting street grids that were established in 1853, according to the
Seattle Times

Parking problems in Seattle, Washington

An automated parking system can help save space
The parking problem with the small triangular lot was created in part by early settlers of the area. The shape makes it a challenge to drive down ramps, steer tighter than a right angle, and find an open stall in a garage. The garage is described to be shaped just like a tipped-up Toblerone box.
Now, residents of Spire will be able to leave their cars at one of three elevators and tap a key card. This will make a red dolly under the car lift it a few inches.
The elevator descends like a trap door, and the car is lowered into the garage. The car is then shuttled to another dolly that moves it to a parking space.
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More details on the automated parking system

The system takes about three minutes to retrieve a car and can handle 60 cars per hour. Car owners can also watch the process on video monitors.
There are multiple dollies on rails that transfer cars across 266 stalls. By automating the parking in this way, space-hogging ramps and driving lanes on the eight lower levels are no longer a problem.
Developers were even able to improve on their original structural design—all cars can go underground, instead of stacking half of them above the surface.

Other benefits of automated parking

In addition to making parking easier, there are other reported benefits of automated parking.
Less driving in a parking garage means less exhaust, so there’s no need for ventilation fans underground. The extra carbon used to build concrete ramps and dig deeper parking levels will also be reduced.
In addition, less lighting can be used because pedestrians aren’t parking their cars themselves. Storing and retrieving each car at Spire takes about one kilowatt-hour of electricity, which is about the same as running a hairdryer for one hour.

Fixing parking problems in Washington and beyond

While ParkWorks did not disclose the cost of the project, residents will pay $120 a month more in homeowners dues per car.
The Spire parking garage is not the first one to be automated. There are already about 100 automated garages in the U.S., with many of them found in crowded cities like New York. It will most likely become more mainstream, according to the
National Parking Association
The Seattle Times said that automated parking has found success in sprawling cities like Houston because parking areas can be replaced by retail shops or housing.
That’s just what happened in Hoboken, NJ, where an automated parking garage was able to reduce parking levels at a building from 10 stories to four. This made room for 32 more housing units.
This fall, ParkWorks plans to open another fully robotic garage in Culver City, California. The company built more than 20 mechanical systems where cars are lifted into storage frames. Another fully automated garage planned for Silicon Valley will be twice as large as Spire’s.
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