China's parking lot of tomorrow－a multistory garage that uses robot "valets" to take vehicles to empty spaces－will open in Nanjing next month, according to the technology company behind the project.
The facility, built as part of a new shopping mall near the city's Confucius Temple, covers 2,400 square meters and has 57 parking spaces and two robots.
Drivers will park on the first floor, and the robots－flat platforms on wheels－will transport the cars to the second floor using elevators, according to Yu Lei, general manager of the Jiangsu office of Shenzhen Yeefung Automation Technology Co, which developed the smart system.
The machines are 4.8 meters long, 1.8 meters wide and 0.35 meters tall, and can carry vehicles weighing up to 2.5 metric tons.
"The first floor of the garage consists of robots, elevators and a control system, while parking spaces are situated on the second floor," Yu said. "Drivers will leave their cars on the first floor, where the control systems will examine the size and weight of each car."
Robots will follow routes calculated by the system and park the cars in specified spaces using laser alignment equipment.
When drivers return to collect their cars, they will wait on the first floor as the robots locate their vehicle, reversing the trip.
Drivers can use a smartphone app to book parking spaces and collect their cars, with the whole parking process taking about three minutes, Yu said.
"Compared with regular garages, the smart garage covers about 40 percent less space and requires fewer workers," he said. "In fact, the garage only needs one worker on the first floor to guide drivers. The second floor requires no lighting or ventilation equipment because the robots can follow the computer's orders in the dark."
Maintenance and labor costs will also be greatly reduced, Yu said.
Ji Feng, technical director of the company, said: "We spent three years researching and testing the smart garage system. A single robot can manage up to 50 parking spaces."
"Technically, using our control system, if a garage had enough space, 100 robots could work at the same time without any collisions."
Ji said more smart garages will be established in Chinese cities, adding that construction of the country's second smart garage will get underway soon in neighboring Zhejiang province.