By: Jack Skelley  |  urbanland.uli.org

Add another item to the list of infrastructure in which the United States lags: robotic parking. As common in Asia and Europe as streetlights, parking that automatically stores and retrieves cars is only now catching on in American cities.

More primitive elevator-style parking has been around since the mid–20th century, but advanced automatic garages are more like three-dimensional chessboards: hydraulic pallets and computerized shelving park up to 250 cars per hour, with 32 cars in motion at any time. As cities become denser, the cost of high-density parking begins to pencil out for developers because it reduces parking square footage requirements by 50 to 75 percent, say experts, some of whom participated in a seminar held earlier this year in Los Angeles, presented by the University of California at Los Angeles ­Ziman Center for Real Estate.

“If you have high-density development, it makes sense to have high-density parking,” says Donald C. Shoup, professor of urban planning at UCLA. “Talk to any developer: they say for small or irregular sites, robotic parking is the answer to space constraints. It will unlock the real estate potential of many urban infill sites.” {…}