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Autonomous Parking Can Set Reliability Records


The ability of advanced automated parking systems to increase parking density by 200% to 300% or more compared to traditional parking structures in the same footprint has given developers and architects a new tool to optimize building designs. These extremely space efficient systems, which quickly park and retrieve cars without human involvement, could be particularly helpful when developing projects in high-cost, urban areas where available land is scarce.

Despite the promise, developers and architects must be sure that the automated parking systems will work without fail, and that vehicles will be quickly retrievable at all times. Fortunately, the most advanced automated parking systems are now designed to anticipate any issue and have built-in redundancy to ensure swift parking and retrieval.

Consequently, developers and architects have increasingly taken on more ambitious projects, based on an ultra-reliable track record with advanced designs that incorporate redundancy. True design redundancy, in fact, is enabling 99.99% uptime with expedited high-volume vehicle retrieval of over 400 vehicles per hour.

In the past decade, development projects have set the bar continually higher. Today, the current Guinness World Record for the “Largest Automated Parking Facility” has a capacity of over 2,300 vehicles. It can deliver almost 7 vehicles every minute. This level of reliability, functionality and design flexibility is unlocking the potential of ever grander projects.

Ultra-Reliable Performance Due to True Redundancy
When the fully autonomous parking system for the Ibn Battuta Gate project in Dubai, UAE began operating in 2009, it was the largest system of its kind in the Middle East, with autonomous parking for 765 vehicles for a shopping mall, office complex and hotel.

“We wanted to increase the office development’s density by raising it from 6 to 13 stories, but couldn’t accommodate enough parking with conventional multi-story car parks,” says Richard Scarth, MRICS, who was a senior development manager for Seven Tides, a luxury property developer and holding company responsible for the Ibn Battuta Gate project.

“We only had a set amount of land for parking available,” he adds. “The only way we could squeeze in the extra parking was to use high-density, autonomous parking technology.”

However, the reliability of the parking system was critical. “When you invest in such a system, you have to have 110% confidence that it is reliable for the long-term because the building will be around for 40 to 50 years or more,” he says.

Seven Tides and Scarth turned to an advanced new category of automated parking technology called robotic parking systems.

Compared to previous forms of automated parking, the advanced technology provides more reliable and consistently faster vehicle delivery. This is due to a unique design that can independently move dozens of vehicles simultaneously on electro-mechanical robots in three axes (left-right, forward-back, and vertically). The result expedites automated parking and retrieval even in periods of peak demand.

In this type of system, vehicle owners drive into a street-level “terminal” at the automated garage, turn off the vehicle and exit with their keys. Then sophisticated software controls, platforms, lifts, motors, sensors, and other mechanical gear transport the vehicle to an open slot in a multi-story steel shelving system. Different sized bays accommodate larger vehicles, such sedans and SUVs, to improve space utilization. When the owner wants to leave, the system locates the vehicle and returns it to a ground level exit terminal.

Less responsive older systems typically utilize only one or two devices such as trolleys to move vehicles. However, these can become intolerably slow and unresponsive during periods of peak demand or mechanical breakdown, so are not well suited for high-volume parking environments.

In contrast, the advanced parking systems utilize electrical and mechanical components with lifespans of 40,000 hours or more and are designed with true redundancy throughout the entire system so no single failure will affect operation. This does not mean just simply installing two motors on a single machine. It also means providing two of the same machines as well as a redundancy of components in a single machine. All major components have at least one backup system and in some cases as many as four.

“Because there is true redundancy throughout the entire system, if any machine goes down to be serviced, you still have full operation without interruption,” says Scarth. “So, customers always retrieve their cars quickly.”

For example, not only are there two motors on a single machine, there are two machines each with redundant motors. Both can perform the same task at the same time. If one machine requires maintenance or repair, the back-up is already operating to keep cars moving in and out of the garage.

The same philosophy applies to software and hardware powering command and control operations. Two complete systems with redundant servers, programmable logic controls, and network cabling ensure vehicle retrieval. In this case, ultra-high-end fault tolerant computer servers (99.999% worldwide uptime) guarantee continuous availability.

As built, the Ibn Battuta Gate autonomous parking garage is 7 levels, with a 276 ft x 98 ft footprint, and 8 entry/exit terminals. Parking or retrieval can be completed in less than 160 seconds. Performance tests proved peak traffic handling of more than 250 cars per hour with the capability of 32 cars in motion at any one time. As of 2019, this facility has a continuous operations track record of 10 years.

“In the years that I was involved with the project, the robotic parking system had virtually 100% uptime,” says Scarth, who credits this performance record to the system’s level of redundancy. “Just once there was a momentary delay when they rebooted the system.”

The success of Ibn Battuta Gate autonomous parking garage, along with its reliability has spurred even grander developments.

In 2011, the Emirates Financial Tower in Dubai, UAE won the Guinness World Record for the “Largest Automated Parking Facility,” utilizing a 1,200-space robotic parking system.

That was topped in 2018 when the Al Jahra Court Complex in Kuwait won the Guinness World Record for the “Largest Automated Parking Facility”, while almost doubling the previous record. The Al Jahra Court Complex was designed as a combination of 684 concrete ramp parking spaces with 2,314 automated spaces on top. The robotic parking systems portion of the project provides almost 3.5 times the number of conventional ramp-style parking spaces in approximately the same volume. While the conventional parking portion is 7 levels and over 97 feet high, the RPS portion is 11 levels and 115 feet high.

The advanced automated parking in the Al Jahra Court Complex can also deliver 7 cars every minute. It has a certified peak traffic throughput of 425 cars per hour inbound/outbound, delivered through the 12-grade level entry/exit bays that service the garage. Average retrieval takes 177 seconds.

Scarth credits the extreme reliability and redundancy of the advanced automated parking technology for its ability to be incorporated into ever larger development projects.

“The track record for the technology keeps getting better, so any developer or architect that needs high density parking to make a project work should consider it,” concludes Scarth.

Royce Monteverd is Founder, Robotic Parking Systems, Inc. Founded in 1994, Royce Monteverdi’s company designed and built the first automatic parking system in the US, before building the first such system in the Middle East, in Dubai.