Automated Parking Systems Can Solve Urban Architecture and Mobility Challenges

How the Intersection of Architecture and Mobility Will Shape the Cities of Tomorrow” by Jordan Goldstein and Neil Brooker is both thought provoking and inspirational. It deserves in-depth consideration and participation by the international design and mobility community and, frankly, discussion by anyone interested in improving the quality of life in our urban communities.

In their article, Jordan and Neil explain Architecture X Mobility as developed by BMW Designworks and Gensler. Architecture X Mobility introduces the highly appealing concepts of ‘Nth Space’, ‘Blurred Boundaries’’ and ‘Fluid Nodes’ (Connected Cities and Smart Technology). These concepts create a shared vision for everyone interested in the future of urban development trends. Included in Architecture X Mobility is an open invitation to industry experts to contribute their own imaginative ideas so together we can make the vision of a fluid-built environment a reality.

Jordan and Neil’s article focuses on repurposing gas stations and parking garages for alternative uses based on the following premises:

(i) electric vehicles will take over the market and
(ii) overall ownership of automobiles will be substituted by shared use models of mobility

Due to both developments, gas stations and parking garages as they exist today will be a thing of the past.

We certainly can see these trends in motion—without a doubt.

In response to Jordan and Neil’s invitation for collaborative input, this contribution focuses on three topics. We believe these concepts would improve customer experience as well as ROI for developers and, at the same time, increase the enthusiasm of both users and investors.

1. Creating Space out of Nothing

Our studies find that the current built environment of urban areas is wasting precious space. See this example of 3,000 parking spaces in a typical and real downtown scenario.

The tremendous waste of precious space is visible from this bird’s eye view. Contrast this with the next image which provides a glimpse into the possibilities and positive impact that automation technology can have on our daily lives.

In the second example, 4.5 acres of land which was formerly used for mammoth concrete parking structures is opened up for a 400-room hotel (or similar 150,00 SF development) and a large open green park.

The technology of automated parking provides the same number of parking spaces in a fraction of the space. This technology has been completely overlooked in any urban planning to date, yet it holds the promised solution for creating more usable, profitable, and livable communities.

Changing the dynamics of land use with automated parking cuts real estate (land) cost in half and creates new land out of nothing.

We believe that remedying the problem of wasted space is the top priority in reshaping and enhancing the overbuilt environment we live in.

2. Multipurpose Enhancement to Nth Space through Automation

The second point of consideration may be the addition of parking automation into the Nth space concept—leaving intact the human interaction component of this idea.

In the Nth Space concept, gas stations are reimagined as “vibrant places for socializing, collaborating, or recharging both the human body and the vehicle.” The land currently occupied by space wasting concrete garages also serves this purpose.

The addition of automated parking to this concept allows for vehicles to be stored and recharged in a much more compact area. This reduces the drive lanes taking up much of Nth space and makes space available for more productive and enjoyable use.

It is important to note that the word ‘parking’ here does not just apply to vehicle storage—it embraces a far wider vision of multi-use mobility concepts ranging from EV charging to mini storage (also cold storage), to lockers, to rental car and mobility exchanges through bikes and scooters—all on a 24/7 basis.

Example of how a structure with automated parking could look.

Cross section of building

Top of building

Inside building

The aesthetics of this multi-use space provides a positive first and last impression for users.

In the Robotic automation system, the driver leaves the vehicle in the parking terminal to be moved throughout the system on a pallet. The vehicle can be retrieved on any other level for purposes of meeting or conference space, it can be left inside the system for charging purposes, or it can be moved to a ‘service bay’ for cleaning and other tasks. There will also be the ability for vehicle rental services on a 24/7 basis—not only for cars but also for bikes and scooters.

The automated pallet system can also be used for mini storage (including cold storage) and lockers.

Storage containers can be used for general household items, business merchandise, documents, and cold storage—all automated, providing the container directly to the user.

Storage in general is a needed commodity and providing such in Nth Space will enhance the overall concept and multipurpose useability.

Pallets in the robotic system can be interchanged with mini storage containers up to 135 SF

We believe that multi-use automation would enhance the Nth Space concept by increasing amenities and user acceptance.

3. Connected Cities and Smart Technology

The integrated automation and communication engine (Cimplicity from GE) makes full scale ‘Smart City’ features possible in all aspects and allows connected devices to participate in multimodal activities.

Robotic Parking Systems addresses four major trends (CASE¹) that are changing the automotive industry.

Connectivity: Through Cimplicity® software from GE Automation, Robotic Parking System is connected and can receive and share information on an open-frame network.

Autonomous Driving: We developed a process to facilitate the parking of autonomous driving cars in partnership with Bosch.

Sharing and Services: Communications exist to handle car sharing, fleets and servicing, cars as well as bikes and scooters.

Electrification: Designed to include automatic electric car charging stations. The owner just plugs the cable in our entry terminal to the car—the rest is done automatically.

Bonus: With a Robotic Parking garage, a digital twin² is already included.

The benefits of the integration of Robotic Parking Systems with emerging technologies include:

1. Cutting down on environmental impact

2. Reduction of congestion through digitalization

3. Enabling reservations

4. Enabling fleet and ride sharing

5. Services with EV charging

6. CASE strategy

We believe that using technology for communication between vehicles and the environment is a necessary component to creating an efficient and user-friendly experience, decreasing congestion and pollution, and realizing CPTED—Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.

Responding to the Call to Action for Urban Development

A great deal of innovation and thinking outside the box is necessary to solve the pressing issues in our urban communities as they continue to change and grow. The microsite, Architecture X Mobility, developed by BMW Designworks + Gensler is just the type of collaborative initiative needed to help us meet the challenges of creating sustainable and humane urban environments.

(1) CASE strategy as defined by Mercedes Benz at the Paris Automobile Show.

(2) Digital twins are part of the Robotic Parking System deliverables. A digital twin is a virtual model that is the exact counterpart of a physical model with a real-time feedback loop. Digital twins help operators understand how a product is performing and how it will perform in the future.

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