First Automated Parking System in Midwest Set for Downtown Detroit Building

A historic building in downtown Detroit is planning to install an automated parking system.
Bedrock and AUTOParkit are planning to install an automated parking garage in the basement of the historic Detroit Free Press Building. // Video capture courtesy of Bedrock Detroit

A historic building in downtown Detroit is planning to install an automated parking system.

Bedrock, the Detroit-based Bedrock commercial real estate firm, and AUTOParkit are planning to install the first automated parking system in the Midwest in the basement of the 95-year-old, Albert Kahn-designed Detroit Free Press Building. This area of the building once housed the newspaper’s printing presses.

Designed by Dasher Lawless Automation, the AUTOParkit system will automatically park and retrieve vehicles within the lower level of the building now owned by Bedrock, which is developing it into mixed-used retail and office space, as well as 100 residential units. Residents and tenants alike will be able to utilize the AUTOParkit system. It is expected to open in the second half of 2021.

“The project was specifically designed to maximize parking while preserving the historic building’s distinct architecture,” says Kevin Bopp, vice president of parking and mobility at Bedrock. “By incorporating AUTOParkit’s advanced mobility technologies with our plans for renovation, we were able to add a layer of parking that would have otherwise not been possible, while simultaneously enhancing the parking process to provide an experience previously unmatched in our region.”

The system was designed to work within the confines of the existing Detroit Free Press Building basement. It will feature two street-level load bays, each with separate entrance and exit doors to make parking and leaving as seamless as possible.

It will provide fully automated charging stations for users with electric vehicles, and utilize advanced cameras, sensors, and sophisticated programming to provide a simpler and safer parking experience – with the promises to park and retrieve a vehicle in as little as 180 seconds.

“Automation is playing a bigger role in our lives every day,” says Shawn Adam, vice president of sales and marketing at Dasher Lawless Automation. “Mobility and specifically parking are one of the latest ways automation of normal or mundane tasks can be applied. In a conventional garage a person could easily spend 10 to 15 minutes finding a parking space, then waiting for an elevator and then walking out of the structure. With the AUTOParkit system a user can drop off their car in a fraction of that time.”

In addition to safety, cost, and speed, officials say the AUTOParkit System is far better for the environment compared to traditional parking structures. Since vehicle engines are turned off before being stored, the system can reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 83 percent. Overall energy use also is drastically reduced, lowering operational overhead by up to 40 percent when compared to a standard parking garage.

“Utilizing the AUTOParkit system eliminates most of the hazards found in a typical garage. Vehicle damage, property theft, or personal injury are virtually eliminated as is the associated liability for the owner or operator of the building,” Adams says.

The system works like this when parking:

  • A driver pulls up to the building and their vehicle is automatically detected by the AUTOParkit system. The driver is directed to an available Load Bay and when the car is close enough, the garage door automatically opens allowing the driver to enter.
  • A flat-screen monitor, sensors, and cameras help to guide the driver to pull their car onto a pallet inside the Load Bay.
  • The system then directs the driver to stop the vehicle, shut off the engine, and exit the vehicle.
  • The driver walks to a touch screen and taps their key FOB to uniquely identify themselves and validate that the vehicle’s doors are shut and is vacant of any passengers and/or pets.
  • Once cleared, the driver simply exits the Load Bay.
  • The system then proceeds to lift, rotate, and store the vehicle into the rack structure.

When retrieving a vehicle:

  • Drivers tap their key FOB on any number of strategically placed readers located throughout the building or use the AUTOParkit APP on their mobile phone to request their vehicle.
  • The system immediately receives the owner’s request, and the car is delivered to a Load Bay in as little as 40 to 180 seconds.

“Building AUTOParkit in Detroit is like our homecoming,” says Christopher Alan, president and CEO of Dasher Lawless Automation. “Detroit is where the idea and foundation for mass assembly was born. And like the assembly line, we continue to develop the AUTOParkit System and expand its capabilities, continuously reinventing, redefining, and improving the technologies of every system we do.””

The Free Press Building is located at 321 W. Lafayette Blvd. in Detroit. The 14-story, 302,000-square-foot building was home to the newspaper from the mid-1920s until it moved out in 1998.

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