Thursday, September 23, 2010

Automated Parking

Okay, so I haven't seen the Jetsons in about twenty years. (Note to self: check Hulu and Netflix.) So I'm just going on ancient, dusty memories here, but it seems that modern life is lacking in a few amenities we were promised as kids by the glowing box.

Yeah, we've got Roombas (and Scoobas and whatever they call those gutter-cleaning bots.) There's the Robomow and Automower lines of aimlessly wandering mowers. Honda and other Japanese companies have some pretty cool androids, but who can afford one?

Robots aside, where are the flying cars with big glass bubbles? (Edit: Here they are!) Where's the crazy architecture?

I'm thinking about this because I spent the day working with an automated parking system. Boomerang makes the hardware, and ASI has been doing the controls for their flat car-lifting AGV (or robot for short). My job is to drive it around and make sure everything works. I haven't crashed it, yet. (I heard they drove one into a pit when it had a car on it. Just a rumor.)

It's really pretty cool. The actual dispatch control software isn't integrated yet, so I'm stuck generating scripts with a barely usable interface thrown together for testing. (Drive forward 20000 units at speed 6, rotate clockwise, etc.) The idea is you drive into the bay and the flat robot picks up the tray and hauls your car away to park it. Since the robot can move sideways (and in any other direction), it can pack the cars much tighter than possible when driving them. Also, no one needs to open the doors. You don't have to walk through a parking terrace with no sidewalks, and many more cars can be parked.

Oh, and the valet won't drive your car around with a completely flat tire. (Happened to me once.)

When you're done, you scan your ticket or have your retina scanned or something, and then you sit down and wait a couple minutes for a friendly robot to bring your car back—facing the other direction and ready to be driven away.

It's expensive though, so don't expect to see one anytime soon unless you live in a place where there are many more cars than parking places. (I know, everyone thinks they live in a place like that.)

Isn't that so cool, though? Warehouses have been automated like that for decades. ASI redid the electronics for HK Systems' pallet hauler years ago. It's about time the cool stuff filters down to consumers, right?

p.s. What would you do if you had access to a big, flat, car-lifting robot?


  1. More than likely I'd take it to the Highland games and see if I could get it to do the caber toss. If it can lift a car, it can lift a log.

  2. I think Jamie (from Mythbusters) said it best. (Not an exact quote.) We'll never have flying cars because if they happen to lose power you will crash spectacularly. At least when ground cars die, you have a chance of not crashing. I really don't know what I'd do with a big car lifting robot. Give the kids rides on it?

  3. Whoa! Are you writing a science fiction book? I enjoyed your post! It would depend on what kinda access it was. If I owned it, I'd start my own business! If I didn't, well, I'd rent out my time using it! Mauahahahah!!!

    Thanks for dropping by my blog and for the nice comment. :)

  4. There's an idea. Anyone want to pay me for a chance to do my job? You can crash it into things like I do.