The sky’s the limit for parking downtown

From New Jersey to Calgary, Israeli firm Unitronics has found a way to make it easier, cheaper to park your car

A Unitronics automated parking solution in action (Courtesy)
A Unitronics automated parking solution in action (Courtesy)

City centers the world over are getting more crowded, and that means drivers are having a harder time finding parking.

Recognizing that not everyone is going to give up their vehicle and take a train or bus, Israeli firm Unitronics has been developing an automated parking system to remedy the situation – providing builders with the ability to fit more cars in less space, saving them time and money, and saving the parking structure’s neighbors from excess pollution.

According to Yair Goldberg, CEO of Unitronics Systems, the company is well-equipped to deploy the novel – and much-needed – solution. “We bring decades of experience in the automated solutions industry, bringing an industrial, compact and cost-efficient approach to residential auto parking,” he said.

As more people flock to downtown to live, work and shop, there’s a greater need for parking spaces. In addition, there are a slew of regulations regarding parking that builders need to follow, such as ensuring that there are enough spaces for residents and potential visitors to commercial centers, and, in flood-prone areas, building parking structures above ground to better protect vehicles.

With limited space, the only sensible way to build an above-ground parking structure is up. But, you can only go so high; nobody is going to drive up to the 50th floor to look for a space.

No person, that is – but a machine, like the one developed by Tel Aviv-based Unitronics Systems, doesn’t care if it has to cart a car to the first, 10th, or 100th floor of a parking structure. And while the company has yet to build a 100-story parking structure using its automated “untouched by human hands” parking system, the sky is the limit for the company’s Automated Vehicle Storage and Retrieval System (AVSRS) system.

An old-tech company with some new tech solutions, Unitronics specializes in combining PLC (programmable logic controller) and HMI (human–machine interface) technology to develop automated solutions for manufacturing and other needs. The solutions are used to automate a wide variety of systems, such as those used in infrastructure to control water, gas, and electricity flow, and to keep an assembly line moving 24 hours a day.

In recent years, Unitronics has found an innovative use for its technology – developing automated parking systems, and last week the company opened its third such facility in the US. Located in Hoboken, New Jersey, the parking structure packs 373 cars into four stories instead of the usual 10 that would be required with a “manual” parking facility, saving the developers money and enabling them to use the saved space for activities that will make them more money than parking.

“When we switched to automated we were able to bring everything up above ground, which is huge now because of the new flood regulations, and also get another 32 units,” David Gabber of Bijou Properties, the developer of 1415 Park Avenue, said in an NJ Biz article. “It definitely made a lot of sense financially.”

When a driver pulls into the parking structure, they park their car and walk away, with a system of automated robots, elevators and platforms, controlled by customized software taking over and moving the vehicle to a free space. Since no one is driving around looking for a spot, every square inch of the structure can be utilized to store cars. The vehicle stays where it is until the driver returns and pays for the time they parked. The system reads their ticket and quickly finds the vehicle, which is then sent back down to the parking structure’s exit.

According to Unitronics, customers get their car back in about two minutes (it takes the same amount of time to store a vehicle, as well).

There’s no human involvement in the process at all; no surly parking lot managers, no competing drivers who try to jostle ahead for a better space and no attendants to tip. The whole system can be run by a single manager, who is never seen but is available to help out (reached by pressing the little speaker button in the payment machine) in case someone loses their ticket, or to deal with other issues.

The company has already built structures in New Jersey, California and Mexico, and is currently building one with 1,400 spaces in Calgary, Canada. When completed it will be the biggest automated parking structure in North America.

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