Driven by humans… parked by robots


THERE IS no doubt that airport parking can be a significant source of grief on holidays and business trips.

As well as being expensive, upon your return you’re guaranteed to forget which zone you parked in, and there’s always a chance that a careless holidaymaker or an overzealous valet parking employee will have dinged your door while you’ve been away. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

Fortunately, the team at Stanley Robotics has come up with a solution that could consign all of that to history. Their robot – affectionately named Stan – automatically collects cars from designated drop-off areas and transports them to the nearest car park until owners are ready to reclaim their vehicles.

The process begins when customers make a booking via the company’s app or website, before parking in a “well lit and spacious” garage close to their terminal. Then once they’ve confirmed their arrival on the accompanying touchscreen, they’re free to leave for their flight, taking their keys with them.

At this point, Stan will step in to collect deposited vehicles, automatically adjusting to each car’s dimensions as it slides underneath and gently lifts the car off the ground. Then, when it has reached the airport’s car park, it uses “the latest sensor technology” to precisely manoeuvre vehicles into rows of five.

The system is being touted as a money-saver for airports, with Stanley Robotics claiming that it can increase the number of cars in a given area by as much as 50 per cent. They also point out that operating costs would plummet without the need for regular cleaning and maintenance.

The fully electric system is advertised as a zero-emissions solution, and while they neglect to mention where the electricity may be generated, each robot is said to be capable of processing between 20,000 and 30,000 vehicles per year, managing up to 400 parking spaces at any one time.

The system’s final party trick is that each booking contains a record of customers’ flight details, meaning that cars can be returned to the easy-access drop-off point in anticipation of their owners’ return.

Stanley Robotics’ valet solution is already in operation at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, and having recently secured millions of pounds in investment, there’s every chance it could become a more common feature at airports across the globe in the very near future.