Are human valets about to become a thing of the past? If this project at the international airport in Lyon, France is any indication, the answer may be yes.
It’s the first full-time valet of its kind from Stanley Robotics, a company that began trials for its robotic valet system several years ago. The system combines technologically-advanced hangars with autonomous robots that are basically smart, self-driving forklifts. Once a customer parks their car in the hangar and leaves, sensors inside the hangar use artificial intelligence to detect the make and model.
After it arrives, the autonomous valet robot lifts up the car, then carries it to a parking space where it is placed. Because of the accuracy of the system, Stanley Robots claims that lots using their robot system can park 50% more cars than traditional parking lots.
At Lyon-Saint-Exupéry Airport, the system is working brilliantly. One of the unique features that set it a step above other systems is that it can keep track of additional data, such as flight details. This means the device knows when customers are expected to return to their car. That means that cars blocking one another is no problem – the robot knows it will be able to access each car when it needs to. This allows it to make much more effective use of the total space.
It also increases efficiency, because customers never have to drive around looking for a parking spot. They can all just park in the hangar and leave…no need for waiting in line, or wandering a crowded lot when you’re rushing to your terminal to catch a flight. Also, it means there are no more parking lot fender benders. This is great for customers, of course, but reduces legal hassles for airports as well.
As for the technology itself, the robots use same kind of system used for self-driving cars. The automated valet constantly scans the immediate area so that it can react to unexpected obstacles. So just how efficient are these techno-valets? At the one parking lot at Lyon-Saint-Exupéry where they’ve been deployed, the robotic valet service with four valets can park around 200 vehicles each day. Later, they may deploy the system at more of the airport’s six different lots.
The system sounds great, but if it’s not affordable for customers, it’s bound to be a dead-end. So how does using the robot valet service compare to the cost of parking in traditional lots? Surprisingly, it’s actually more affordable, even compared to a lot that doesn’t use human valets! This is because the efficiency of the system does a better job than humans, without having to pay parking lot attendants or other staff. These savings can be passed on to customers. Families will save on pleasure travel, and business travelers can spend less of their companies’ travel budgets when they fly for meetings, conferences, or sales runs.
Currently, because the system is so new, it does require that an on-site technician keeps the robots secure and monitor them for any glitches. As the technology is refined, however, all monitoring will be done remotely. As the technology becomes more advanced, these robotic valets are likely to become a fixture of airport technology in the not-so-distant future, with even more advanced features than the project at Lyon-Saint-Exupéry.
For example, mobile app integration with smartphones could allow customers to use an app to view ahead of time which lots are already full.
That means a better, more affordable experience for customers at parking sites, and plenty more cost-saving innovation for airports around the world.