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Wednesday, May 25, 2016, 23:19

Get you! Here comes my little parking attendant

By Chai Hua in Shenzhen

Editor’s note: A smart parking robot guided by laser navigation has come to the aid of drivers constantly hounded by the dread of hunting a parking space in overcrowded cities in China. The creator aims to ultimately capture more than 60 percent of the country’s automated parking market.

Get you! Here comes my little parking attendant

A Shenzhen technology company has, seemingly, come up with a panacea for the millions of drivers across the Chinese mainland plagued by the headache of having to hunt around, sometimes for hours, for a parking space in overcrowded cities.

A smart parking robot called Geta (Get A Car) is the creation of Shenzhen Yee Fung Automation Technology Co and the brainchild of Wu Hao — the company’s 33-year-old chief executive.

Wu claims that Geta, launched earlier this year, is the world’s first AGV (automated guided vehicle) robot with laser navigation and a comb-exchange or finger-grid mechanism.

Like Aladdin’s magic carpet, Geta transports a vehicle by handling it directly from beneath the tires. After parking the vehicle safely into the slot or stall equipped with a specially-designed platform that the vehicle can land on, the auto-navigated robotic dolly leaves on another mission.

Car owners, thus, don’t have to drive around in the dark garage, stretching their neck to find a vacant slot.

“Parking will be as simple as leaving vehicles to Geta at the entrance platform and using an application on a mobile phone to retrieve it automatically,” says Wu.

Zhang Jun, a director of the quality committee of Beijing-based China Parking System Manufacturers Association, believes there’s still a huge gap between available parking lots and demand.

The Chinese mainland is projected to have about 105 million parking lots, heavily outnumbered by some 170 million cars by 2017, according to a report by Shenzhen-based consultancy company Forward Intelligence.

But, based on the international ratio of the two indicators, which is usually 1:1.4, the country should have 238 million parking slots theoretically.

But, Zhang is worried there’s not enough land to fill the gap, especially in mainland cities with a high population density. Therefore, there are huge opportunities for mechanical parking facilities that can provide more parking lots on land of similar size.

He estimates total sales in the mechanical parking facility industry at about 11.4 billion yuan ($1.74 billion) for 2015, but the size of the market is about 3 to 10 trillion yuan.

Wu’s father established Yee Fung in 2003 when it focused on OEM (original equipment manufacturer) for large equipment before switching to automated parking facilities.

After Wu joined the company in 2011, he introduced modern management and proceeded to create their own AGV parking robots. Believing in the power of innovation, he emphasizes the practicality of innovative ideas. “Ideas that can’t be realized can’t be regarded as innovation,” he says.

Wu’s R&D (research and design) team of about 30 people created a completed technological package in 11 months, promising to add at least extra 40 percent parking slots to traditional parking spaces and reduce parking time to 120 seconds.

AGV technology, he explains, helps the parking robot find its way to the parking spot without leaving tracks on the floor, so it’s easier to build new parking facilities or renovate existing ones. Laser navigation helps the moving robot sense obstacles within half a meter, and the robot can automatically stop if there’s any.

Wu promises its failure rate is less than 0.01 percent, while the accuracy rate is less than 5 mm. “Even if there is any problem, an assistant robot will be assigned by the system.”

The significance of a smart parking robot is that it can save time and land resources, as car owners have to spend an average of one to two hours in their cars each day, and the robot can save them about 40 minutes.

The device can also intensively utilize land resources by narrowing down the distance between cars from 2.5 to 2 meters and the width of pathways from 8 to 6 meters, as well as taking out at least two pathways among each four rows of cars, compared with a traditional parking lot.

Duan Xinfeng, Yee Fung’s vice-general manager and chief strategy officer, says the average price of one parking slot equipped with their parking robot is about 60,000 yuan.

The company is also trying to participate in building and managing parking lots, instead of simply selling robots. Duan believes it can create a new business model for underground real estate property.

Yee Fung, which claims to command more than 60 percent of the mainland’s automated parking market, waded into the European and North American markets earlier his year.

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