While autonomous vehicles slowly edge toward becoming a reality on our roads, autonomous solutions for parking our vehicles are already making great strides in our congested, overcrowded cities.
American motorists spend an average of 17 hours per year searching for a place to park their vehicles, costing $345 per driver in wasted time, fuel and emissions, according to a study published by Inrix in June 2017. Since then, the situation has only been getting worse.
Tel Aviv-based U-tron, however, is accelerating parking solutions into an increasingly autonomous, cost- and space-efficient, and user-friendly future for residential, commercial and municipal locations.
Born out of Unitronics, known for designing automated services for industry warehouses and distribution centers, U-tron’s automated parking solutions enable drivers to simply leave their car in a dedicated parking bay, before a robotic shuttle system retrieves the vehicle and stores it in a suitable place.
“The main incentive for a customer to choose an automated solution is because we solve the painful process involved in parking,” U-tron CEO Haim Shani told The Jerusalem Post.
“Parking is not considered the most intelligent part of the building, and it consumes a lot of expensive space. If it’s below-grade parking, then it requires a very costly excavation process. If it’s above-grade, it occupies the most expensive, prime location that can be used for retail, for example.”
Using automated parking solutions, Shani says, offers developers several benefits. First, a major benefit is that they require approximately one-third of the space of regular car parks, as machines replace space-consuming parking infrastructure.
Second, running costs are low due to far fewer operational costs, as, in addition to occupying less land, there is no need for personnel, ventilation or lighting.
Finally, the experience is significantly more user-friendly, as drivers can wait for their cars to be retrieved in a welcoming reception room rather than poorly lit and often dangerous car parks.
“Most of our sales are in the North American market, and we are a growing company. We started in the Northeastern United States, in New York and New Jersey, and we now have activities in South Carolina, Florida, Boston and Houston,” said Shani.
“Each one of these metropolitan areas requires different adaptations for different weather and mentalities. It’s one country, but it’s a large nation.”
U-tron has enjoyed an encouraging start to the year, signing four new agreements for the construction of autonomous parking lots in New York worth NIS 67.5 million ($18.6m.). Last year, the company saw its revenues rise to NIS 66.7m., an 8.6% increase compared to 2017.
Since March 14, both Unitronics and U-tron have been listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, after a strategic move saw the latter spin off into a subsidiary company.
“Right now, we are undergoing a process of adaptation to new technologies coming into the car industries. The last few systems that we sold are already equipped with charging for electric vehicles. After a driver leaves the car in the entry bay, we park it but also charge it,” said Shani.
“The second trend that we are developing is to create the interface between the car parks and the new generation of cars. The first phase is to interact with connected cars, and the second phase is autonomous cars.”
U-tron is also cooperating with Rolzur, a Petah Tikva-based underground tunnel-building company, to construct an ambitious underground automated parking solution for locations where building upward is unfeasible, such as airports and increasingly high-density cities.
Currently working to secure deals with the first customers, Rolzur plans to build vertical tunnels up to 100 meters in depth, enabling automated parking of 50 levels of vehicles.
“The solution links to the airport’s schedule. We ask the driver which flight he’ll return on and, for example, bring the car from level-45 to the upper levels before the flight arrives,” said Shani.
“We will utilize the ideal time, at nights or between peak flights, to bring the cars which are going to be retrieved in the coming hours up to the levels that are closer to the exits.”
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