Robots could be parking cars at Gatwick Airport as part of a pilot project due to be undertaken in 2019.
Gatwick Airport Limited (GAL) has been working with robotics company Stanley Robotics to explore the introduction of robotic valet car parking.
A pilot project to test the concept is planned as Gatwick looks to find ways to make more efficient use of the airport’s passenger parking estate.
The new system would see passengers drive into the car park and leave their cars in numbered vehicle cabins. A touch screen kiosk on the cabin would allow customers to confirm their parking booking.
Customers then leave their vehicle, retaining their keys, and make their way as usual to the terminal.
Once the passenger has left the vehicle cabin it is automatically secured. The valet robot would then collect the car by sliding its carrier underneath the vehicle and taking it to a parking area.
The car parking service is connected to the customer’s flight information so that on a passenger’s return the car is retrieved by the robot and returned to a designated vehicle cabin ready for the passenger’s arrival.
The robot, which is called Stan, moves autonomously and adapts to different obstacles. Different sensors allow it to scan its environment and adjust its movements.
It is equipped with artificial intelligence which allows it to optimise parking lot space, with an algorithm used to park cars tightly to create new spaces.
The trial area at Gatwick comprises an existing area of surface parking which is currently configured for self-parking.
Zone B currently accommodates some 2,350 spaces. During the trial this will be reduce to 2,180 self-park spaces and 270 robot valet parking spaces.
A total of eight cabins would be installed on the eastern side of the trial area.
Gatwick is planning to start the works in April 2019 and complete them by August.
The trial period would then last for three months before a decision is taken on whether robotic parking has a viable future at the airport.
According to documents submitted to Crawley Borough Council: “Unlike normal valet operations with block parking undertaken by drivers, the use of robotic technology allows more cars to be parked in the same area because of the parking precision and the fact that driver side doors do not need to be left accessible.
“If the trial is successful it is possible that the project will be extended to other parts of the car parking estate. By way of example it has been assessed that a future phase of the project for Zones C and D could increase car parking capacity from the current 6000 self-park spaces to 8,500 robotic parked valet spaces even allowing for the land take of additional cabins.”
According to Stanley Robotics’ website the technology has been tested and used at airports in France.