The City of Hoboken was expected to unveil a new completely automated parking garage Thursday, made possible by a computer system developed by the Israeli company Unitronics. The company has spent a year refitting the garage on Garden Street, which now operates ‘4 hours a day without human intervention.
The garage, built in ’00’, had been designed as an automated system but suffered from constant breakdowns, said John Corea, executive director of Hoboken’s Parking Utility. In ‘006, the city began looking for a company to retrofit the system and found Unitronics, which has worked with similar systems in warehouses for ‘0 years.
Hoboken was scheduled to inaugurate a fully automated parking garage this week, made possible by the Israeli company Unitronics.
The garage was under construction through most of ‘007 and began to reopen, slowly, in December. It is now operating at 80 percent capacity but it is available only to customers with monthly leases. Corea foresees opening the facility in the coming months to transient parking.
When a driver pulls into one of the four entrances, he or she shuts off the car and leaves. An automated system then carries the car into the garage and into one of 314 spots.
The returning driver punches in a code in the garage’s waiting room and three minutes later the garage’s computers bring the car into one of four bays.
"You can come at any moment, retrieve your car, or drop off your car," said Rafi Stoffman, vice president of sales and marketing of Unitronics’ systems division, in Hoboken Tuesday for the grand opening later in the week.
In case a driver has difficulty, there is a ‘4-hour hotline to call for instructions. Almost 99 percent of problems can be fixed through the hotline, Corea said.
Still, there is no immediate human supervision, which leaves the fate of one’s car solely in the hands of a computer that is susceptible to power failures and glitches.
Stoffman shrugged off such concerns, noting that the system has its own power generator, as well as a back-up system. "So it doesn’t stop for any malfunction," he said.
Because of the missing human factor, the garage is a cost-saver in manpower and utilities, he said. Because nobody needs to walk through the facility except for maintenance, the garage has no lighting or ventilation systems. This saves electricity costs for the city as well, Stoffman said.
While the retrofit cost Hoboken just under $’ million, Corea expects it to bring the city an extra $500,000 per year.
"This garage really doesn’t have any major expenses," Corea said. "When the machine isn’t operating, it doesn’t draw any power at all. The biggest thing is it’s a green solution."
And security is much tighter than in self-park garages, as the cars are inaccessible to thieves.
"Once you park the car, nobody can touch the car in terms of damage, scratches," Stoffman said. "It’s completely secured."
Upgrades on the garage were completed last month and it has been operating at about half of its capacity this month. Officials expected it to be fully operational after yesterday’s scheduled grand opening.
The Hoboken facility is Unitronics’ third fully automated garage to open in the United States and the largest. Unitronics is working to retrofit other garages but Stoffman would not comment yet about where. Only one automated garage exists in Israel because of already cheaper parking rates, he said.
With more than 300 cars off the streets instead of circling around looking for parking, Corea is looking forward to implementing the system in other parts of the city. Although because of city rules Hoboken would have to put the work out to open bidding, he would like to see Unitronics win the next round.
"Right now I’m very confident in their system," he said. "They’re the most reliable company I’ve seen."