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When do automated parking solutions typically pencil compared to conventional parking?

As parking becomes a critical concern for many business and residential centers, parking solutions have evolved beyond conventional parking garages. One of the parking innovations that has been around for 25+ years in Europe and Asia is automated parking systems. But when and how do automated parking systems compare with conventional parking solutions in terms of cost-effectiveness and functionality? This article explores the topic and provides insights into when automated parking typically pencils compared to conventional parking.

Understanding Automated Parking Systems

Automated parking systems use advanced technology to optimize the use of available parking space and eliminate the need for human operators. These systems may use various technologies such as robotics, sensors, and intelligent software to accomplish the task of parking. The main idea of automated parking solutions is to reduce space requirements, maximize car storage, and optimize space utilization without sacrificing functionality or safety.

How Automated Parking Systems Work

Automated parking systems are typically designed to work by using a combination of equipment that allows a vehicle to be parked in a particular location, such as a loading bay or car elevator, without direct human intervention. The process typically involves the following steps:

  1. The vehicle driver parks the car in a dedicated area and exits the vehicle.
  2. The automated parking system receives instructions via a software interface
  3. The parking system then uses robotic equipment or lifts to move the vehicle to a designated parking spot.
  4. Upon return, the driver utilizes a smart app, inputs a code or scans their ticket. The system then locates the vehicle and returns it to the ground level in a designated pick-up area.

Types of Automated Parking Solutions

There are various types of automated parking solutions utilized across the industry. The most common types include:

  1. Stackers
  2. Puzzles
  3. Fully Automated Rack and Rail
  4. Robotic Solutions such as AGV

Advantages and Disadvantages of Automated Parking

Like any other technology, automated parking solutions have both advantages and disadvantages. Advantages include:

  • Reduced space requirements
  • Efficient space utilization
  • Improved security
  • Simplified parking procedures
  • Environmental sustainability benefits
  • Reduce or eliminate excavation
  • Reduce or eliminate intermediate parking decks
  • Shrink parking footprint and give you back parking space to be used for higher value use
  • Systems can be removed later to repurpose the space when parking needs change

On the other hand, some of the disadvantages of automated parking solutions may include:

  • You need to balance the CAPEX and OPEX to determine the proper system and all-in cost over multiple year’s time
  • They need to be used in the proper application. You wouldn’t want an automated parking system when a large group of people exits at one time such as a stadium or concert venue.
  • The company and technology you partner with are critical. Look for a partner who will be with you for the life of the system
  • The biggest challenge with these systems is training the users and changing habits such as not sitting in your car on the phone once you park in the system and remembering to put the gates down upon exiting. The Automated Parking Company realizes this challenge and provides a written training manual, training video, on site training and requires each user to sign sheet confirming they have received training and documenting the type of vehicle they will be parking in the system.


Comparing Costs of Automated and Conventional Parking

The cost-effectiveness of automated parking systems and conventional parking solutions is undoubtedly a significant factor in the decision to implement either of these solutions. Some of the cost variances that must be taken into account include:

Initial Investment and Construction Costs

The initial implementation costs for automated parking solutions and compared to conventional parking solutions are site specific. This is typically driven by the space in question. A dense urban infill project in downtown San Francisco is likely to pencil in favor of automated parking versus a rural Texas site. Once the initial investment is made, the operational and maintenance expenses of automated parking solutions are comparatively lower than conventional parking solutions because there is less need for items such as  ventilation and lighting

Operational and Maintenance Expenses

Once automated parking systems are operational, they typically have lower operational and maintenance costs than conventional parking solutions. Automating the parking process eliminates the need for human operators, reducing labor costs and minimizing associated expenses such as insurance, sick leave, and benefits.

Land and Space Utilization

Automated parking solutions require less space than conventional parking solutions, which can make it possible to develop a more efficient and profitable use of the land. Additionally, the use of automated parking solutions can diminish the parking lot’s environmental impact, reducing carbon emissions, and pollution levels.

Where automated parking really makes an impact vs conventional parking is by reducing or eliminating excavation and intermediate parking decks. These are often large costs in the build process that can be minimized by shrinking parking footprints with automated parking solutions. In addition, we can often give you back space for higher value use to add more units, retail, etc or even completely reimagine your entire building layout.

Environmental and Sustainability Factors

Automated parking systems offer significant environmental benefits, mainly due to reduced energy consumption and reduced carbon dioxide emissions from parking vehicles. Besides, automated parking solutions reduce traffic congestion in turn, reducing traffic noise and the impact of transients on the surrounding environment.

Factors Influencing the Decision to Implement Automated Parking

Several factors can influence the decision to implement automated parking solutions over conventional parking solutions. These factors include:

Location and Land Availability

Automated parking solutions are often more convenient in locations that have limited space or restrictions on the use of parking lots. For example, parking for multifamily, office, airports, hospitals, and high-rise buildings with small parking spaces favors automated parking systems.

Parking Demand and Capacity Requirements

The size of the parking space and the daily demand for parking can influence the decision to choose an automated parking system or conventional parking solutions. Automated parking is ideal for high-density property areas with high volumes of pedestrian traffic and limited space.

Local Regulations and Building Codes

Local regulatory requirements and building codes can significantly affect the decision to use automated parking solutions. The industry is subject to various regulations, including fire safety standards, building codes, and zoning laws, among others, that can impact the installation and operation of automated parking systems. The Automated Parking Company is skilled at navigating municipalities across the US to get your project approved and built. We will be with you every step of the way.

Future Growth and Expansion Considerations

Automated parking solutions are typically modular, enabling simple scaling and expansion when required. Future growth and expansion considerations are essential factors that can influence the decision to choose automated parking solutions. Automated parking solutions must align with organizations’ existing programs and should be capable of accommodating future growth and expansion plans.

Real-World Examples of Automated Parking Systems

Automated parking is familiar to most cities with parking challenges. Northern California is the automated parking capital of the United States with hundreds of installations. Additional cities with installations include Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, Sacramento, Portland, OR, Seattle, Henderson, NV. NY, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia and Detroit

Successful Automated Parking Implementations

Successful automated parking implementations are evident all over the world. These implementations demonstrate the technology’s ability to minimize space requirements, automate parking, and optimize parking options while saving energy and reducing environmental impact.

Challenges and Lessons Learned from Past Projects

Despite the many success stories, there are also examples of projects that failed to live up to their potential due to inadequate planning, unreliable technology, and poor design.

To address these challenges, it is important to learn from past experiences and work towards optimizing the technology and, more importantly, the parking design. For example, a Developer may elect to provide automated parking only for compact vehicles which will provide a poor parking experience for folks with larger vehicles. It is also essential to work with reputable industry suppliers, to avoid quality and reliability issues, and to secure post-installation support and service.


Automated parking solutions provide a viable alternative to conventional parking solutions, offering advantages such as increased parking space, efficient use of land, improved security, and sustainability. Implementing automated parking solutions requires careful consideration of various factors such as location, land availability, parking demand, local regulations, and future growth prospects. All-in investment costs for automated parking solutions and conventional parking solutions are site situational based on the site. The long-term operational and maintenance expenses for automated parking tend to be lower than conventional parking. By analyzing these factors, it is possible to determine when automated parking typically pencils compared to conventional parking, and make informed decisions when implementing or upgrading parking solutions.