An airport in the UK is set to launch a three-month-long trial of robots that will park travelers’ cars for them, letting them squeeze thousands more vehicles into their parking lot.
The details: From August, drivers at Gatwick Airport will be able to leave their car in a drop-off zone near the airport and summon one of the robots using a touch-screen terminal nearby. The robot will then ferry their car to one of 270 pilot parking spaces, according to a planning application.
The “Stan” robot works by rolling to the front of the car and lifting it up, like a forklift truck. It doesn’t require drivers to hand over their keys. Travelers provide their flight details, so the robots can automatically retrieve their car when they return.
The logic: Unlike a human, the robot doesn’t need to get in and out of the car, so there’s no need for room on either side of the vehicle. This means the cars can be packed in tighter together. Gatwick thinks it can replace 6,000 parking spaces with 8,500 maintained by robot valets, without increasing the size of the spaces themselves.
What’s next: Similar valet robot services have been tested at airports in Paris, Lyon, and Düsseldorf, but there are no reports yet of any trials in the US. It could also prove useful for parking at malls and stadiums—or wherever demand is high but space is at a premium.
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