The robots are in charge at a downtown parking garage.
The newly opened 48-space garage at the Boulevard, a luxury condominium complex on Broad Street, uses a computerized system to move and fit vehicles in tight spaces — without human intervention.
Parking garages based on robotics are popular in Europe and Asia, as well as some US cities, but this is the first one in Boston. Other developers are working on similar projects elsewhere in the city, including at the 40 Rugg Road apartment complex in Allston, which will boast more than 150 spaces.
For the most part, users seem to be adjusting well to the non-conventional car park at the Boulevard, said Ed Correy, construction superintendent for Commodore Builders, which built the condo building for New Boston Ventures. The parking system itself was installed by PARKPLUS, a company which has overseen “high density storage garages” around the world.
“It’s been great,” Correy said during a demonstration of the parking technology earlier this week. But there is a “learning curve” involved in using the Boulevard garage, said Correy, who admitted to having some early concerns of his own.
“I was nervous my car wouldn’t come back,” he said with a smile.
But once you get over the initial shock of letting a robot park your car, he said, the process becomes fairly simple.
The garage beneath the Boulevard — also called a “car vault” — has four levels. The only way in or out is through an elevator shaft which runs from the ground level to the bottom floor. Correy said the elevator is capable of lifting eight tons.
Boulevard residents who want to park in the garage drive through an entrance in the back of the building and leave their vehicle on top of a metal tray that slots into the elevator. Once out of the car and inside the building, the driver can use an app or a wall-mounted kiosk to start the parking process.
After getting the go-ahead, the elevator brings the car to one of the vault’s four levels. Then a robotic device slides under the tray and carries it, along with the car, to the appropriate parking space.
With the car safely tucked away, the robot puts a new tray in the elevator, which returns to the ground floor. To get a car out of the garage, the entire process is repeated in reverse. Bringing the car in or out takes a few minutes. Correy said he hadn’t heard any complaints from residents about the wait time.
There are no stairwells or ramps in the Boulevard’s vault. Only elevator technicians or emergency workers will enter the area.
Other car vaults follow different procedures. Some, for example, stack cars rather than placing them side by side. Whatever the method, all accomplish the same goal — using less space for parking. That saves square footage in a city where it’s at a premium. It also cuts back on labor costs. Robots, after all, don’t expect a paycheck.Max Reyes can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MaxJReyes.