Parking robot STAN’s just getting the car

Innovative parking robots are creating more parking space at Lyon Airport in France and Gatwick Airport in the UK.

In car park 5 at Lyon-Saint Exupéry airport in France, passengers’ cars are parked close together – so close that there is hardly any more space between them than the proverbial hair’s breadth. Opening the doors to get in or out is impossible. While French drivers may be known for their unconventional driving and parking maneuvers, the sight of this car park still raises questions. How do up to 500 cars get in here – and out again? It gets even more amazing when the vehicles start up as if by magic, literally floating – in the truest sense of the word – above the large asphalt surface, their wheels not touching the ground.

Lyon airport, France’s second-largest regional airport, welcomes eleven million passengers a year and serves 131 direct destinations. Here, STAN keeps everything in order and moving along to relieve passengers of the annoying and time-consuming task of parking and retrieving their cars before and after their flights. But STAN is not a human being – he is a friendly-looking robot designed by the French manufacturer Stanley Robotics. He parks and retrieves cars better than any talented driver could, and with no dents or scratches whatsoever. Stanley Robotics was founded as a start-up in Paris in 2015. The three initiators Clément Boussard (CEO), Aurélien Cord (CTO) and Stéphane Evanno (COO) previously worked on autonomous vehicle technologies at renowned French research institutes and at Robert Bosch GmbH.

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When passengers take their cars to the airport car park, twelve large garages are ready and waiting at the entrance. Here, the driver parks the car and stores the key in a box, then checks the car in via a smartphone app. A scanner measures the floor area and calculates the required parking space. Now all the driver has to do is get their luggage out of the trunk and go to the shuttle bus, which takes them straight to the terminal. A little later, STAN comes around the corner to lift the car parked in the garage a few centimeters using a platform. Fully powered by electricity, STAN then piggybacks the car into the designated parking area, right up close to the vehicle next to it, saving as much space as possible. An extremely precise GPS system helps STAN find his way and position the car.

Since the driver’s app also records the details of their return flight, STAN retrieves the car in time and parks it in a free garage in time for pickup.

There are currently four STANs in use in Lyon, where the system celebrated its worldwide premiere. The project began about two years earlier, when Stanley Robotics sealed a partnership with Aéroports de Lyon to introduce the robotic valet technology. The test phase was so successful that official operation began at the end of March 2019. Tanguy Bertolus, CEO of Aéroports de Lyon, even expects that up to 2000 additional parking spaces will be created in the medium term, which could be “managed” by STAN and his colleagues. This would increase the total capacity of the airport to over 6000 spaces without creating any significant new areas, as the close arrangement of the automated parking spaces will increase capacity by around 50 percent. After all, the technology eliminates the space otherwise required for getting in and out, and routing vehicles around the car park. Cars can also be blocked in because the system recognizes when they have to be retrieved. STAN can easily carry out the necessary reorganization during the quiet hours of the night.

“We have designed the service to be a particularly simple and enjoyable experience for airport passengers.”

Clément Boussard, CEO Stanley-Robotics

But there are other advantages too, such as safety. Apart from service staff and emergency personnel, for example in the event of a fire, people do not have access to the parking areas. This helps prevent burglary and vandalism.

Passengers also save themselves the tedious and time-consuming search for a parking space and long journeys to the terminal. And the environment benefits too: Since STAN almost completely eliminates traffic in the car park and is fully powered by electricity, there is a significant reduction in regionally generated CO2 emissions.

For Bertolus, the introduction of STAN was a logical decision: “With our innovative thinking, we were always one step ahead of our competitors in terms of customer satisfaction and service quality. Testing the valet robot is therefore in line with our innovation strategy, as we aim to meet future requirements too.” Above all, Stanley Robotics CEO Clément Boussard focuses on the user: “We have designed the service in such a way that it is a particularly simple and pleasant experience for airport passengers.”

In August 2019, STAN branched out even further. After the successful launch in Lyon, Stanley Robotics technicians also installed the system at London Gatwick Airport. The airport in the south of the British capital is the second largest in the UK after Heathrow, and the eighth largest in Europe. The planners expect that using the parking service robot in a smaller car park that currently only has capacity for 170 cars will create space for up to 270 vehicles in the future.

Text by Behrend Oldenburg
Photos: Stanley Robotics