Envision APS: The WHAT’s of Automated Parking

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Envision APS: The WHAT's of Automated Parking | Blog Series

Automated parking is unique in that can mean different things to different people. You might hear it referred to as robotic parking or mechanical parking. We aim to clarify your definition of automated parking while discussing some of the fundamentals of the industry. Throughout the blog we will highlight in bold any key phrases or buzzwords relating to automated parking that you should know. Discover for yourself the future of parking.

This is the second installment of Westfalia’s “Envision APS” blog series – The What’s of Automated Parking. Stay tuned for the rest of the series as we cover more common questions that we are asked in the context of automated parking systems (APS). The questions will be categorized into who, what, when, where, why and how. If you have a question we don’t cover, send them to us or use #envisionAPS on social media and a member of our team will personally reach out!

Part 1: The WHO's of Automated Parking

What is automated parking?

Automated parking is essentially defined as a machine operated parking system. In a fully automated system, there is no human interaction involved in the process. Automated parking systems (APSs) make parking a more pleasurable and efficient experience for users. They save building space by using up to 60% less space to park cars. APSs save time by eliminating the need to search for a parking spot on the street or in a traditional garage.

What equipment is involved in Westfalia’s automated parking systems?

Some of the equipment used can vary depending on the type of system employed. Here is a breakdown of some of our major equipment included in a palletless parking system:

  • Transfer Car (T-Car): Component that transports the vehicles from the lift to its final parking position and back
  • Turntables: A circular, rotating platform that turns the vehicles to face the appropriate direction to be able to drive forward when leaving a parking space
  • Lifts: Component that takes the vehicles from the entry level transfer cabin to the parking level. They control the vertical movements in an APS by transporting vehicles to different levels. Common types of lifts include: end of aisle, side of aisle, or scissor lifts.
  • Satellite®: Equipment used to transport the vehicle onto the T-Car and from the T-car to its designated storage position within the automated system

What elements should be considered in the design of a system?

A number of elements need to be balanced to construct the perfect solution for your project. A few things to consider are:

  • Space constraints of the building
  • Size of the building
  • Number of spaces required
  • Throughput of the system
  • Redundancy of the system
  • Costs

Often, we will design 2 to 3 options for the client with varying characteristics and price points so they can ultimately decide which system is right for them given project specifications.

What are the main differentiators between fully and semi-automated systems?

The main difference between semi-automated and fully automated parking systems comes down to how users interact with the system.

  • Semi-automated systems require the user to drive into the mechanism and park the vehicle themselves. Pallets then move vehicles horizontally to adjacent conveyors. From there, a lift may be used for vertical movements. Some examples of semi-automated systems are puzzle systems and stackers. Critics complain that this method may be less safe since drivers enter the system.
  • Fully automated systems minimize the amount of human involvement. Users simply pull into the cabin, position the car, and leave. A unique feature of these systems is that you can make them as luxurious as you’d like because users aren’t driving into the garage, they’re only driving into the transfer area.

What types of automated parking systems exist?

At Westfalia, we design and manufacture fully automated parking systems and define them as either pallet-based or palletless. A pallet-based system uses a platform, or pallet, that the vehicles sit on to transport the vehicle to and from its parking space.

In a palletless system, Satellite® technology moves under the vehicle and adjusts to its dimensions. The Satellite® then picks the vehicle up by its wheels and moves it onto the T-Car for transportation throughout the system.

Other types of parking systems include puzzle systems and stackers. Both are considered semi-automated because the user drives the vehicle into the system to be parked. They typically require a valet or another person to manually store and retrieve vehicles. An AGV (automated guided vehicle) parking systems are pallet-based systems controlled by an automated guided vehicle. Here, cars are transported throughout the system on platforms by AGVs that can roll in any direction.

What happens if the system breaks down and my car gets stuck?

On the occasion that the APS does break down, the idea is to minimize downtime and recover as quickly as possible. The quality of your parking control system (PCS) software can have a huge bearing on the amount of time it will take to recover. You should evaluate any software solutions based on its ability to automatically recover from less than ideal situations. The APS and its pieces of equipment should be designed with redundancy in mind; where one piece of equipment or another component can take over if another is having an issue.

What happens if there is a power cut? Can I still get my car?

If the power goes out, you should still be able to retrieve your car given there is a backup generator. A generator is outside the scope of the APS project, but we can modify our system to work with it. Generator mode is then programmed within the PCS to limit the amount of movement that the car park system will make. We can limit the number of lifts or T-cars in use depending on how much power we have from the generator.

What happens if a bunch of people show up at the same time to park or multiple people need to retrieve their car at the same time?

We can manage an influx of people in several ways. If we know peak hours for retrieval ahead of time, we can prepare our system to deal with that. A new addition to our user experience is the parking app. People can indicate when they plan to retrieve their car so it can be ready for them when they arrive, or we can give them an approximate wait time.

What is the average amount of time it takes to retrieve a vehicle once it is called for?

The user will typically wait about 2 – 3 minutes for their car. The time can vary depending on where the car is in the garage and how many other people are calling their car.

What codes or regulations do I need to follow to implement this type of system?

Since automated parking is relatively new in the United States, there are no official building codes that exist; therefore, each city may come up with their own building codes. Some cities are starting to use the European standards while others are making it up as they go along. However, there are fire codes in place that you would have to adhere to.

What should you look for in an APS supplier?

Ideally, your APS supplier will have a strong track record in automated parking with a portfolio of satisfied customers. When searching for an APS supplier, a key thing to look for is what capabilities they have in-house. Check to see if they subcontract to any 3rd parties as opposed to handing in-house. It can significantly complicate the process if other companies are involved. Ideally, an APS supplier should be able to design, manufacture, test, install, and commission the system. Look into a company’s aftermarket offerings as well. A great APS supplier can offer the whole package.

What happens if I leave something in my car?

If something is left in the car, the user is able to call their car back up, retrieve the item, and use the repark function within the PCS. There is no need to drive the car out and back in again. With this function, the system understands that it should just put it back in the garage in the next available spot.

What happens to my car after I leave the transfer cabin?

After the user leaves the transfer cabin, the outer door closes and the system rescans the area around the vehicle with a safety scanner. The scanner makes sure there is no one in the transfer area, all doors are closed, and the car is in the right position.


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