Automatic for the People

A space-aged and space-efficient alternative in parking arrives in New York City.

If Harry Houdini ever designed a parking garage it might look like AutoMotion, the parking system that made it national debut last month in New York City. The magic is the way in which this machine operates. Unlike conventional parking garages, the structure at 123 Baxter in SoHo is hidden from view and lacks human operators. Simply, owners guide their car onto the pallet in the entrance room, exit the vehicle, and watch a gate descend and their automobiles disappear. When the elevator opens again, the car is gone and on its way to a subterranean parking space.

As a fully automated system, this new process eliminates many of the uncomfortable aspects of conventional parking lots. Once the owners exit their cars, no one enters them. Time spent waiting for cars to be jockeyed out of place and the accompanying concern for sloppy dents or scratches are history.

Even more magical is the fact that this 67-car garage was originally intended for only 24 cars. American Development Group (ADG) initially purchased the site with the intention of creating a mixed-use project that would include retail and luxury condominiums. With the ingenuity of Perry Finkelman, Partner and Managing Director of ADG and Automotion, a partnership was formed with Stolzer Parkhaus of Germany to expand the tenant garage for the 24 condo units nearly threefold to make parking available to the public. This is achieved, explains Ari Milstein Automotion’s Director of Planning, by creating “parking spaces in every nook and cranny. We eliminate all the headroom. You only need enough space to stick a car in—you don’t need maneuverability spaces or driving lanes.” Currently, the system is designed for two automobile types—sedans and medium sized SUVS—accounting for 95 percent of vehicles on the road in the US.

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With the human element removed from the process, AutoMotion’s system is designed to alleviate any potential mechanical error. Using the basic principals of physics to do all of the heavy lifting, exposed chains and counterweights allow easy access for maintenance. Guidance software controls all operations; however, there are mechanical triggers in place to keep the computer in check. A manual control and an onsite computer technician are accessible in case of emergencies.

Houdini died in 1926, the same year the first parking garage elevator opened in Chicago’s Jewelers Building. Using simple technology AutoMotion brings old world magic into the modern era as garages open in Brooklyn. More are in development throughout North America.

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