Technology
Someday, parking garages may be obsolete. Meanwhile, here come the robots.
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Someday, parking garages may be obsolete. Meanwhile, here come the robots.
Credit: Woehr

This robot garage in Seattle can be taken apart like LEGOs

In the future, some experts say parking garages could go extinct.

That’s because of bad traffic, good transit and high land costs.

In the meantime, some designers are dreaming up new ways to shrink parking garages into the tiniest possible footprint.

Taka Soga, an architect with ZGF in Seattle, said clients say they don’t want to be saddled with a structure that doesn’t do anything else.

“They think about what it could be,” Soga said. “Serve parking right now – but ultimately be intended for a different use in the future?”

In Wichita, Kansas, there are apartments in a former garage. Another parking garage got turned into a dog park.

Soga is working on an expansion for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in the South Lake Union area. They want parking for patients who aren’t well enough to take public transit. So they're building an underground parking garage … that can be taken apart like LEGOs … and easily turned into something else.

This is a garage that will be run by robots. You give your car to a valet, who sets it on a robotic lift. These lifts move quickly.

“You park the car on the lift, it goes down subterranean to a level you can’t see, that people can’t go to,” Soga said.

It’s done automatically. The cars are slotted into cubicles which then move vertically and horizontally until they reach a spot. Then that lift returns to take the next car that’s been dropped off.

This robotic parking garage by manufacturer Woehr is similar to the one planned for Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in Seattle. It can be taken apart, like Legos, leaving an underground box that may be converted to some other use when the parking garage becomes obsolete.
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This robotic parking garage by manufacturer Woehr is similar to the one planned for Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in Seattle. It can be taken apart, like Legos, leaving an underground box that may be converted to some other use when the parking garage becomes obsolete.
Credit: Woehr

They did this because it was cheaper than a traditional garage.

In this case, the cancer care alliance had a funky site, and they found it was more economical to build this robot-powered, car-storage place.

Land is expensive in Seattle, after all, and parking garages take up a lot of room. This robotic garage takes up half the space.

Robot garages aren’t uncommon in Europe and Japan, where Soga was recently, and where he observed garages above and below ground.

“You would see the car go in – and then it goes up a tall building – and it’s just stacking them maybe two or three cars wide,” he said. “There would be no way you could fit a parking structure in there.”

There are other robotic parking garages planned for Seattle, mostly in luxury apartment towers. But as far as we know, this is first garage that is both a robotic garage and one that can be completely disassembled in the future.