Let’s Talk Pallets and Liability

Pallet vs Non-Pallet Systems

A major factor in the reduction of product liability for Robotic Parking Systems is the use of pallets as one of the key components of the company’s parking design and technology. Pallets prevent the dripping of oil, acids, a/c condensation or salt water onto cars from either the parking system machinery or the cars on upper levels. It also guarantees that no machinery or other people ever touch the vehicle. This design feature ensures one of the highest standards of product liability protection for automated parking facilities.

The Robotic Parking System pallet is 2235 mm / 88 inch wide by 5791 mm / 19 feet long. This pallet size accommodates standard as well as wide sedans and very large SUV’s. These include vehicles such as Escalade, Yukon X, Chevy Tahoe, Nissan Patrol, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Range Rover, Land Cruiser, Chevy Suburban, Navigator, Maserati, Aston Martin, Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Ford Excursion, and Nissan Armada.

A number of automated parking manufacturers utilize a non-pallet system. These companies use dollies that travel underneath a vehicle and clamp onto the tires in order to move the cars around in the automated garage.

The non-pallet system may appear cheaper; however, we feel that the dollies used in this type of system represent a major technical design flaw that can cause serious damage to low lying cars or a chassis altered by the owner. Vehicles with their base close to the ground can be scratched, dented or have components underneath the car ripped off as the dollies attempt to grab onto the car. Additionally most electric cars that are manufactured today have a low center of gravity to accomodate a battery pack. This means that most electric cars will have a low clearance from the bottom of the floor.

I mention this technical flaw because we sometimes still hear about an early design flaw in our system – quickly corrected – that occurred in 2003. A car fell off a pallet in the Hoboken garage and was totaled. With no questions asked, we paid the owner $44,000 for a brand-new car. However, this incident happened and needs to be explained.

The planning for the Hoboken garage was done in 1997 – 1999 with the installation occurring in 2000 – 2001. Per the New York Times this was the first automated parking garage in the US. The engineers in 1998 did not consider that a car owner would have an electronic key that could be used to remotely open the door or a trunk. This is exactly what happened. The owner down in the lobby accidentally pushed the trunk release button and opened the trunk. This made the car exceed the transportation envelope for sedan cars. An upper machine hit the trunk and pushed the car off the pallet. It would have been difficult for an engineer to predict such an occurrence in that time. However, within less than 4 weeks, our engineers had a solution; and the problem was fixed and never reoccurred.

What do the non-pallet system designers do to remedy their many years old design defect? They publish lists of vehicles that can’t be parked in their garages.

A frank discussion of pallet versus non-pallet systems is important in the scheme of the daily operation of an automated parking garage. We advocate for pallets because we want to assure developers and owners that a) we can accept the maximum sizes and types of cars and SUV’s on the market, and b) the best protection for the vehicles is ensuring that machines never touch the car or come close to the chassis of a car.

Lower Insurance Rates

Robotic Parking Systems are viewed by insurance companies as lower hazard / less risk and therefore, may be considered for lower insurance rates.

Insurance underwriters reviewed the design and processes of the Robotic Parking System and were very favorable. In a detailed review by Best Underwriting Guide, the Robotic Parking System was assigned a low hazard risk in several categories.

Moderate hazard due
to exposure to traffic
and crime.
Higher hazard due to
exposure to traffic,
falls from elevators,
Lower hazard due to
low traffic exposure,
lower crime
Garage Keepers High hazard – thefts,
traffic, driver
Moderate hazard due
to building security.
Historically was a
higher exposure due
to ineffectiveness of
the driverless
elevator now
considered low risk
due to technology.
General Liability Low hazard due to
open space, good
visibility but subject
to trip and fall in
potholes, etc.
Higher hazard due to
elevator. Security
breaches, and
assumption of
liability as operator.
Low hazard due to
better security from
no outside access.
Property / Inland
High hazard –
damage to vehicles
left in open lot. Wind
/ hail / theft.
Moderate hazard due
to protection from
building. Theft still
an issue.
Low hazard due to
limited access and
protection of the