When Modern Technology Meets your Parking Needs

The concept of a three dimensional parking system utilizing motorized vehicles such as lifts (elevators), cranes, shuttle cars (moving platforms) and other conveying elements has been around for quite some time. In recent years, following the success of material handling systems such as automated warehouses in the logistics world, the now affordable costs of technology, and the increasing need for parking space and green solutions the emerging automated parking solutions are promising more than ever. The ability to get 2 or 3 times more parking location in the same physical space can not be ignored.
unitronics logo.JPGIn such systems, computer-controlled motorized vehicles transport passenger cars from an entry location at the arrival level to a parking space within the facility and vice versa, without human assistance. Similarly to logistic material handling systems such as automated warehouses, operating since the late 70's and becoming more and more popular in recent years - some of these automated parking systems utilize pallets to carry and store vehicles (where the vehicle is first placed on a pallet that is carried, stored and retrieved), and some are "pallet-less" (where the vehicle itself is carried, stored and retrieved.

In general, the automated parking consists of a storage or parking area, entry/exit bays or stations that are used to accept the vehicles for parking and deliver them upon retrieval, and conveying elements mainly lifts and shuttle cars that are used to transport the vehicles from the entry bay to a parking location and vice versa. Systems that are designed with multiple lifts and shuttle cars provide better throughput (the total number of cars that can be parked and retrieved in a given time), and a better availability of the system due to the redundancy of components.

Think of the elevators in your building. Would you accept only one available elevator? We will get back to elevator example later.

All moving elements of an automated parking system are usually driven by electrical motors but may implement other means such as hydraulic or pneumatically driving mechanisms.

These moving elements are electronically controlled by a control system. An automated parking system is therefore controlled and managed by control systems and management software. In some systems, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) are used as control elements. Some providers even use multiple PLCs interconnected in a network, to form what is known as a "distributed control" environment. In such environments, every moving part has its own independent control, (sometimes even with its own operator panel) increasing the reliability and availability of the system. Using one standard network for all components allows easy access and control to the entire system from any computer on the network.

Other providers offer a control system based on a controlling PC computer remotely controlling the elements using remote I/O devices (input / output connections actually controlling the motor drives or hydraulic valves) interconnected via a wired or wireless bus or network. There's a long debate going on in the automation world between centralized control versus distributed control. We will just say that from a reliability, availability and serviceability, solutions that allow even partial operation of the system in case of the malfunction of one component are obviously preferred, and such solutions are easier to achieve in a distributed environment.

In addition to the control system in charge of the actual movements of all moving elements, a Parking Application Management System is required. This software package is designed to manage, operate, control and monitor vehicle transactions and their deployment in a parking garage. It needs to manage the available locations, allocate a location for each car that arrives, store the location of each car, allow a smart allocation of locations depending upon the managing criteria such as required service level, allow for smart billing, etc.

Now let's get back to the example of the elevator in your building. You want it to be safe, easy to operate by yourself, available at all times, and you don't really want to be aware of any periodic service or maintenance. This in general is what you should expect from an automated parking system. If it is properly designed with sufficient redundancy, you should not have to worry about reliability and availability. If the human interface is properly designed (the way you are being automatically notified and guided by the system), you should not have to worry about operation. If the system is carefully maintained periodically (exactly like the elevator in your building) so that each element is checked and serviced one at a time during off-peak times during the year, then you shouldn't even be aware of any service or maintenance.

The technology is already here, available systems are operational, and cost can be easily justified showing fast return on investment. Numerous automated parking systems are currently in the pipeline worldwide and in various building stages. Based on these reasons, we are on the threshold of seeing more automated parking systems in the coming years.

You can already start thinking of the next improvements of automated parking systems, focusing on even easier and friendlier driver's experience, offering web or cellular access designed to reserve an available parking location, or to schedule in advance the retrieval of your car. That's already around the corner.

About Unitronics

unitroics big logo.JPGUnitronics is a global company that designs, produces and installs Automated Parking Solutions, Automated Warehouses and Automation Products. The Companys mission is to make automation simple, efficient, & cost-effective.

As a company with vast international experience in automated logistics and material handling systems, Unitronics offers Automated Parking Solutions. Control and software systems are critical elements in automated systems. All major control and software elements are developed solely by Unitronics and incorporate two decades of experience and expertise designing and implementing numerous automated systems worldwide.

Unitronics P2 Automated Parking Solutions implements reliable, field-proven technology that multiplies the parking capacity of conventional ramp-style garages. The P2 Automated Parking Systems are specifically designed to the customers requirements and offers a turn-key solution.

The Company is justly proud of its fine R&D department, the people that keep Unitronics at the sharp, cutting edge of technical research and development. Unitronics Systems and Products Division have a global distribution network, comprising of more than 150 distributors in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, & Africa.

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