Forget driverless cars, ‘Stan’ is already using robotics to reinvent valet parking

When we discuss how technology is changing the airport experience we tend to focus on subjects such as common-use, self-service check-in kiosks or increasingly now how biometrics are being used to simplify the traveller experience.

We don’t tend to think about valet parking robots, but that is just what London Gatwick Airport has identified as a solution to support customers parking at the UK facility. In fact, the airport’s chief commercial officer Guy Stephenson believes valet parking robots “could revolutionise parking” at the UK’s second largest airport.

This week it has confirmed the signature of a framework contract with Stanley Robotics to become the first UK airport to trial robots that valet park passengers’ cars. The trial will run from the second half of 2019 to early 2020 and passengers will simply leave their car in a well-lit, spacious ‘parking station’ close to the South Terminal entrance and – without handing over keys – the driverless robot will gently lift up the car and store it in a secure car park.

The system will also be connected to real-time flight information so the robot simply returns the vehicle to the parking station. The user then receives an SMS that the vehicle is ready and waiting for their arrival.

The new service, which could become common-place at airports and other businesses across the world, clearly provides a convenient, personalised experience that will save passengers time, while also reducing vehicle emissions. It also has the potential to significantly increase car park capacity and could help airport’s meet the increasing demand for air travel with only limited changes to existing infrastructure.

Details of the London airport’s collaboration with Stanley Robotics first emerged at the start of Feb-2019 after a formal planning application was submitted to Crawley Borough Council outlining the robotic car park pilot project, with an anticipated Aug-2019 start date.

The approved application says drivers will park their car in one of eight newly built cabins and summon a robot, known as Stan, via a nearby touchscreen before catching a shuttle to the airport terminal. The Stan then lifts the vehicle up, similarly to how a forklift lifts a pallet and moves it to available parking spaces.

The London airport is not the first to sign-up with Stanley Robotics. Groupe ADP first did a trial with the technology back in 2017, while the system has been installed at Lyon-Saint Exupéry airport, where it was recently expanded with four units now fully operational in a car park that can accommodate up to 500 vehicles.

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