Interview of Gerhard Haag, President and CEO of Robotic Parking, Inc.

We hear that the first modular, fully automated parking system in the US is open and operating in Hoboken.  Is that true?

Yes, indeed, it is open and we are very pleased to be serving a large residential patronage of Hoboken.  The citizens of Hoboken persisted and their patience paid off as they now have a state-of-the-art automated parking solution that is decades ahead of the rest of the country.  Residents have been using the facility very actively now for several months now and are quite excited.  Here’s what some of them have to say:

“I love my parking garage. . . Just want to let you know how happy I am.” 

“Things are going quite well – truly enjoy having a place to park the car.  It’s been smooth and easy.” 

 “Everything is great.  Easy to use and convenient.  Life is better.  Thanks for all your help.” 

“It has been easy and trouble free – very pleasant – and the closest we will come to a driveway in Hoboken.” 

It sounds like acceptance has been terrific.  What exactly could one expect to see at 916 Garden St.?

Garden Street in Hoboken is a residential urban street lined with 100-year old brownstone and brick buildings for which the town is famous. 916 Garden beautifully blends in and is often not even recognized as a garage to someone passing by.  It houses a modular, fully automated parking facility on a lot 100’ x 100’ x 56’ high with a capacity for 312 cars. The facility includes a small lobby area and four (4) bays.

Behind the outer façade are seven levels of a steel rack system, with an aisle down the center and cars parked two (2) deep on either side. There are two (2) carriers per level gliding back and forth down the aisle, separate carriers moving in and out of the storage compartments, two carriers with a turntable on the ground level and two (2) lifting devices transporting cars at the rate of about 8 ft. / sec.

The garage at 916 Garden Street is one example of the system’s adaptability.  It was tailored to serve the specific needs of the area, which is residential. It would see mostly intermittent usage with some commuter needs.  (The Robotic Parking technology is capable of accommodating transient and/ or high volume applications as well.)

This design is capable of 14 independent simultaneous motions, and over 3 times the amount of vehicle throughput of earlier automated systems. We believe it is the most sophisticated automated parking system available in the world today.

Can you tell us more about the technology?

It is a flexible, modular, fully automated parking system, utilizing the latest in electronics and automation. It is driven entirely electro-mechanically (there are no pneumatics or hydraulics, which means movements are smooth, reliable and quiet). Its unique, patented design is capable of multiple, independent and simultaneous movements, with a high throughput capability, making it one of the most advanced automated parking system designs anywhere in the world. But unlike other systems, this one is completely US based, greatly simplifying the logistics for US buyers.  

What do you mean by “throughput capability”?

Throughput, or the number of cars in and out of the facility over the course of an hour, is a much more meaningful indication of the system’s capabilities and capacity than measuring the time to retrieve a single car.

The following graphic will help give a clearer idea of the system design as compared to earlier models:

Typical Stacker System

Redundancy (up to fourfold) of every major component, as well as entire units, ensures a high level of reliability.  In addition, our patent pending, user-friendly HMI (Human Machine Interface) uses simple graphics to provide a sophisticated on site (or remote) diagnostic and preventative maintenance tool, second to none in the industry. 

In summary, the key advantages of Robotic Parking’s system design are:   1) Redundancy: its high level of redundancy means greater reliability.  <  Flexibility:  its modular design means it is adaptable to a wide range of needs and can be built above ground, underground, on top of a building, under a building, inside a building, around a building.    Throughput:   Robotic Parking’s independent, multiple movements allows for a high throughput capability, translating into faster storage and retrieval times.

We know the Hoboken project has had its challenges, being a first and all.  What can you tell us about that?

The most important point here is that the garage IS open and Hoboken can be justifiably proud of its leadership in introducing this 21st century parking solution to the United States of America.  As in all pioneer activities, there are major hurdles to overcome. In retrospect, we looked at other engineering ‘firsts’ in our country’s history, and realized that our experience placed us in good company: The legendary August Roebling, for example suffered from substandard wire cables which were forced into the project of the Brooklyn Bridge; this was eventually revealed and corrected.

I believe we have a much better grasp of and appreciation for the sociopolitical aspects of putting an automated parking garage in an area like Hoboken. Looking forward, we are armed with a tremendous amount of experience on how to deal with any social or political barriers to such an undertaking and we expect this experience to benefit all of our parking garage clients.

From an outside viewpoint, I have to say it is pretty remarkable that you persisted and finally succeeded in getting the garage open.  There were probably some of us who had their doubts. How did you get through this?

Well, we have a very strong conviction in the benefits and value of automated parking to our society. We also believe and insist upon the highest engineering standards. This has always been a primary concern in our work.

And our belief in the basic goodness and value of people in general and, as a result of that belief, support from a tremendous amount of friends and associates. I am happy to say that we have made many new friends in Hoboken and in this industry as a result of the Hoboken project and that abundant friendship alone makes me feel like a very rich man!  (We would like to thank all of them.)

It sounds like you had quite an experience. What can you tell us about Robotic Parking as a company?

Robotic Parking is the fully US-based designer, manufacturer, installer and operator of modular, fully automated parking systems that can accommodate from 20 cars to over 5000 cars. Our designs make parking facilities possible in areas where a conventional garage is not well suited.  (Hoboken is a good example:  a conventional garage would not have been economically or structurally feasible on a site 100’ x 100’.)

Our company was incorporated in Florida in 1994, and over the years has assembled a strong Board of Directors and shareholders who stand behind the company’s product and management. 

We are proud to have established an American-made product.  We are the designer and manufacturer; not a distributorship or solely a sales organization.  Robotic Parking is the only fully US made and US based manufacturer of modular automated parking.

The design of our system is US patented, with additional patents pending.  Our parts are all from US based suppliers. (GE is Robotic Parking’s primary hardware and software supplier.) Because our parts are all US manufactured off-the-shelf components, replacements are simple. We even use conventional US measurements of inches and feet, to avoid misunderstandings due to metric conversions. We meet all UL / ETL approval standards, and factory train our engineering and service staff right here in the US.  All this adds up to a higher level of confidence, reliability and convenience for our American customers.

We have dedicated over 8 years of our energies and resources to preparing and opening the US market.  As stated at the Parking Convention at Texas A&M University in March 2002:  “(Robotic Parking), the pioneer of automated parking in the US. . . recognized as the U.S. expert in automated parking.”  

What is your background?

I myself am the company’s founder and co-designer of our unique parking system.  Prior to founding Robotic Parking, I had extensive experience as an owner and president of a large engineering/construction firm in Germany.  We completed many challenging engineering projects, including the arrival and departure stations at the new Munich Airport, a Hitachi wafer chip plant, a launch pad for the European space shuttle, to name a few.  Particularly significant assignments during that time were the Mercedes and Volkswagen assembly plants, where I gained a great deal of expertise in the smooth conveyance of automobiles, which obviously provided a basis for my automated parking designs.

I also was fortunate to have worked closely with the former world leader of automated parking.  This background provided the confidence to persist and succeed in the emerging US automated parking industry.  I have over 28 years of engineering, construction, and development experience. My focus has been on automated parking for the past 13 of those years.

Is there any truth to the general perception in America today that German precision is one of the greatest legacies of German engineering?

As a German-trained engineer who has worked in many parts of the world, yes, that has been my experience.  For example, take the Munich Airport project.  I insisted on a tolerance of no more than 1/8 “on the steel erection over the span of the building – which was one mile.  That high level of precision was achieved!  In that regard, I suppose you can say that Robotic Parking represents the best of both worlds – German precision with the pride of the “American-made” brand on it.   We are very pleased to be fully US based.

Interesting, So, now what?  What’s ahead for the parking industry as a whole?

Our concept of implementing the Robotic Parking Systems in dense urban areas around the country is a major enhancement for the environment and quality of life – with the much needed added security component now.  As you can see if you look around, we undoubtedly have a large amount of exciting work ahead of us! As land is not increasing and urban living is becoming more and more a demand, robotic parking is a just-in-time alternative!  As the former CEO of Sam Zell’s Equity Capital organization stated so accurately: “The Robotic technology will change the dynamics of land use in this country”. 

Our vision is to apply what we have been fortunate enough to learn to help alleviate these parking problems with smart solutions for parking and thus improve the quality and security of life that the citizens of America’s great cities have earned and deserve.