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West Hollywood's Robotic Parking Garage

In West Hollywood, where parking spaces are at a premium, a new high-tech garage will park your car for you, placing 200 cars in a space that used to hold only 68. This state-of-the-art, robotic garage uses an elevator and high-tech sensors to fit cars efficiently into parking spaces - no humans required. Reporter Derrick Shore puts this computerized parking structure to the test.

Transcript 

Derrick Shore: Wedged between LA & Beverly Hills, West Hollywood is a diverse and colorful little city. Home of the world-famous Sunset Strip, restaurants, clubs, and the design district – West Hollywood attracts more than a million visitors every year. And it knows how to party.

John Duran: West Hollywood is one of the most dense cities in America. We have 35,000 people in 1.9 square miles. That's about 20,000 a mile, that's a dense as Manhattan.  Very dense small town.

Derrick Shore:  And that leads to one giant problem: where to park?

Lauren Meister: Parking has been an issue in West Hollywood and this area in particular has been in need of parking for a long time.

Derrick Shore: So it’s no surprise that tonight’s guest of honor is this garage.

City Council: One, two, three!

Derrick Shore: But this isn’t just any garage, it’s a high tech garage that will park your car for you.  There’s no other garage like it on the west coast.  Just how high tech is it?  The city offered to give me a personal tour.

Derrick Shore: Hey Yair!

Yair Goldberg: Hi Derrick.

Derrick Shore: How ya doing?

Yair Goldberg: I'm fine!

Derrick Shore: Jump on in!

Yair Goldberg: Thank you!

Derrick Shore: Yair works for Unitronics, the company behind the technology that will park my car.

Derrick Shore: Well, so far this all seems very normal. I'm just pulling into a driveway.

Yair Goldberg: Exactly.

Derrick Shore: Now what's happening here?

Yair Goldberg: Well you look up and the different signs would indicate the different states of the bays so a green arrow means it's an entry bay that you can pull into.

Derrick Shore: Ok.

Yair Goldberg: The no entry signs means those are exit bays that cars will be coming out of, // So we're just going to pull in until the system tells us to stop and that's it.

Derrick Shore: Wait for door to open… okay So I just keep pulling up?

Yair Goldberg: You just wait for the door to open.

Derrick Shore: Whoah! Wow. That's cool.

Yair Goldberg: Now on your left hand side there's a screen. You just align…align your car.  Just go straight in, it will show you your car.

Derrick Shore: Stop.

Yair Goldberg: That's it. You're done parking.

Derrick Shore: Position good!

Derrick Shore: After applying the parking brake I locked up and walked out.

Derrick Shore: And then I take my keys with me?

Yair Goldberg: Yes.

Derrick Shore: Okay.

Yair Goldberg: When we pulled in the bay room was measuring the car so we know its dimensions, its length, its width, its height, its weight// There are motion sensors and there are scanners all around and there's a camera inside that records video and verifies that nobody moves inside, there's nobody in there //

Derrick Shore: Alright so I'm going to pull a ticket, alright pretty standard.

Derrick Shore: This is where my job ends and the magic begins. Bye, Felicia!

Yair Goldberg: That's it. Your car is gone and you're on and about.

Derrick Shore: So I can hear something going on behind that door.

Derrick Shore: And with that my car was already being turned around and taken out of the bay.

Derrick Shore: Is it parking around front? Can we go see it?

Yair Goldberg: Yeah we can go.

Derrick Shore: How long would it take the car to get from that driveway to a parking space?

Yair Goldberg: It's a matter of minutes.

Derrick Shore: There's my car! Wow. What a trip!

Derrick Shore: In this demonstration video we can see how it all happens.  First, cars are rotated 180 degrees.  Then they’re loaded onto shuttles that take them to one of the lifts.  The car is then taken to an open space where another shuttle slides it in. Without humans opening doors or walking between cars, the sensors and robots ensure cars are efficiently parked within inches of each other. That means you can fit a lot of cars in a small space.

Yair Goldberg: You don't need to remember where you parked// nobody's touching your car, you don't have to walk between moving cars, nobody dings your car, nobody backs up into it // You're getting the valet experience without the valet.

Derrick Shore: Without an actual human.

Derrick Shore: What happens when it's really, really busy //  Do you have congestion issues?

Yair Goldberg: It's a great question. We can have multiple cars being stored and retrieved at the same time. This garage is designed to handle 50% of the capacity in one hour -- meaning we can handle 100 cars per hour.

Derrick Shore: The city says the price of the garage -- $16 million dollars – is actually about the same as a traditional parking structure with the same capacity.  But this one has a smaller footprint and overall size.  And it didn’t require any excavation.  That means less building material and less land.

John Duran: It was a very practical solution to not having a big enough footprint to construct a traditional parking structure.
Lauren Meister: It's the perfect way of using a smaller space and getting really more bang for your buck to get more parking spaces. We went from a 68 space surface parking lot to 200 spaces.

Derrick Shore: And the building meets the city’s green building code. Since car engines are off, that means no tailpipe emissions, no idling, no circling around to try to find parking.

Yair Goldberg: The system works in the dark. We don't have passenger elevators, and because we're not emitting and exhausting inside so we don't need to temperature control it or to exhaust all the fumes out so it balances out and eventually from an operations standpoint and power consumption this is lower than conventional garages.

Derrick Shore: West Hollywood officials say the structure will entirely pay for itself over 30 years.  My parking fee today probably won’t make much of a dent in the overall price tag, but it’s a start.

Derrick Shore: Okay so I would just put in my credit card.

Yair Goldberg: And you see your ticket number? 2404? That number goes up on the screen and the system indicates that your car is being processed.

Derrick Shore: A couple minutes later, my car was ready to roll.

Derrick Shore: It’s sort of like a game show. It really is like a game show.  What's behind door number one?  

Yair Goldberg: Exactly. 

Derrick Shore: It's my car.

Yair Goldberg: While we were talking your car showed up. So my car's here behind door number three?

Yair Goldberg: Yup.

Derrick Shore: But it’s not a game show, folks. This is real life.

Yair Goldberg: It's the parking of the future and it's happening now in West Hollywood.

Derrick Shore: Bye! For "SoCal Connected," I’m Derrick Shore.

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