Gatwick airport is introducing a fleet of valet-parking robots – aimed at cutting hassle for travellers, while also squeezing a third more vehicles into the same size car park.
Unfortunately the technology has not yet been developed for anyone – man or machine – to remember which row you’re parked in.
During a recent trial the robots had to be grounded after a remote control car was spotted in the area. Hundreds of cars had their Christmas ruined as they were unable to reach their parking spaces in time.
The contract was nearly awarded to OB1 Robotics, but a salesperson advised, ‘These aren’t the droids you’re looking for’.
There’s also rumours some could be manufactured by Philips. But don’t worry – that’s the electronics company, not the Prince.
The trial will run for 3 months. Travellers will leave their car in a dedicated drop-off zone and summon a droid, booked by app, on a touch-screen.
As the customers are shuttled to the terminal, the battery-powered robot rolls up, slides a forklift-style ramp under the chassis, and uses military-grade GPS to ferry it to a secure bay – all without needing the keys.
It’s the last of three similar trials to begin. The first uses a fleet of drones to hover in front of the driver and guide him or her to an available parking space.
While the second employs a large team of illegal immigrants, caught stowing away in the under-carriages of jumbo jets, to lift up the cars and stack them on top of each other to save space.
The pilot scheme will begin in August.
“All my hopes are pinned on the touch screen droids trial,” said Stewart Wingate, the CEO of Gatwick airport, “As we’ve already had issues with the other two proposed schemes.”
“The drones were a non-starter. They kept whizzing across the runways between car parks. I’ll be frank with you, it caused a little bit of disruption to our passengers, what with the airport having to be shut down. As for the use of illegal immigrants, well, after we gave them each a hi-viz vest and sent them out to the car parks, we never saw the buggers again!”
(Additional Material: Chris Ballard and Alexander MJ Smith)