Airports can be stressful enough without the nuisance of parking at them. It's rarely cheap, always crowded and invariably miles from the terminal you need to fly from. In Germany though—or at least at one German airport—things are a little different. Düsseldorf airport is trialing a system called Ray, which aims to make airport parking as quick, easy and pleasant as possible.
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Ray currently covers just a section of Düsseldorf's parking areas, but successful trials could mean wider application. And we hope it is successful, since the robotic parking concierge looks quite spectacular. Drivers simply pull up to the appropriate spot in the parking lot, take a ticket, and let Ray do the rest. A large robotic forklift whizzes in from the side of the bay, lifting the whole car off the ground and whisking it away to a far-flung corner of the lot. Once you return from your flight, Ray brings it back again and you drive off without having to amble around for hours looking for your car.
The system is clever enough that it can even rearrange cars while you're away to ensure they're quickly returned once you're back at the car park. Cars likely to be left for a while can be stashed at the back, and those owned by people returning soon can be brought forward for minimal disruption. In conjunction with a smartphone app, drivers can even let Ray know they might be a while going through customs, or collecting checked-in luggage—so your car isn't left waiting, clogging up a potential space.
Because the system rolls along on multi-directional wheels, Ray can spin on its own access and this agility means Düsseldorf airport's parking lot is more space-efficient than ever. The usual six-meter wide lanes have been cut in half, and the section of the parking lot handled by Ray has increased parking capacity by 60 percent. The airport will make its decision on Ray's future by the end of the year—but given the system's advantages, we'd be surprised if it isn't given the green light. And maybe airport parking won't be quite the hassle it usually is...