MIAMI BEACH —Automotive technology progresses one step closer to autonomous driving with the start of creating a future where your car will park itself for you.
It seemed like the perfect nightlife accessory for the South Beach set — an automated robotic parking garage where trendy clubgoers could park their Porsches with a futuristic touch of a button.
Forget hiding your GPS and favorite Fendi sunglasses from a valet who might ding your new alloy wheels; this garage would park cars itself.
Instead, malfunctions lasted for hours. Cars were smashed, and faulty machinery fell several stories to the ground. Sometimes vehicles were stuck for so long that garage operators had to pay for customers’ taxis.
“It was clear that the garage was not ready to be open to the public,” said Russell Galbut, the managing principal at Crescent Heights, the property developer, which has sued two manufacturers over the botched garage.
While engineers aim to perfect self-driving cars, they still have a lot of work to do on another element of the idealized commute of the future: robotic parking. Designs differ, but most consist of a combination of automated ramps, slabs, lifts and shelves, using a computerized system that parks and delivers a car like a high-tech vending machine.
But the garage on Collins Avenue is one of two cutting-edge parking projects in South Florida that ended in spectacular debacles. At a luxury residential high-rise in downtown Miami, a $16 million robotic garage plagued with delays finally closed, leaving tenants paying $28 a day to park elsewhere. The police were called to keep order at the building, BrickellHouse.
And around the country, other attempts at self-parking garages have been caught in embarrassing software and hardware mishaps at a time when dozens of projects have been proposed or are underway.