August 31, 2015
During our research for the Forrester Big Idea report The Future of Jobs, 2025: Working Side-by-Side with Robots, we spoke with not one, but two different vendors that automate parking garages, Boomerang and Serva Transport Systems. Rather than explain, I'd invite you to watch a few seconds of the following video, which depicts how Serva TS robots park cars — all cars — at the Dusseldorf airport in Germany:
Looks a bit like sci-fi, right? But it's happening right now. Two vendors, one in the US, one in Europe, take somewhat different approaches to robotic parking:
- Boomerang positions its offering as RoboticValet, a service that serves two customers. For property owners (developers, real estate investment trusts), Boomering solves a key problem: The high price of real estate in places like Miami, Chicago, or San Francisco. Robotic valets can save significant space, allowing developers to build more profitable buildings. And for consumers — that is, buyers of the condominimums — Boomerang's service is a luxury amenity: A 24/7 valet service that drops their car off to the same spot every time.
- Serva TS can retrofit existing garages to 'expand' usable space. Serva TS reports gaining 40% capacity in an existing garage space, making it a less disruptive and expensive solution for garage expansion. For customers, there's a smartphone app: As soon as your flight lands, you can summon your car, which a robot will bring to the designated spot.
In both cases, customer convenience is at least as important as cost-cutting — a key Business Technology strategy in this age of the customer.
Interestingly, these systems can lead to both job losses but also job gains. In Germany, the parking garage didn't have attendants to begin with, so no jobs were lost at Dusseldorf airport. But they did have to train and hire robotic repairpeople — a high-skilled blue collar job that represents a strong contribution to the job market. In other cases, jobs that might have been created in valet and parking attendance might never appear at condominium complexes that employ Boomerang's valet — though those jobs are only "lost" in the sense of opportunity costs.
Of course, robotic car-parking systems themselves face a disruptive challenger: Self-driving automobiles. In our forecast of job losses due to automation (which we complement with a forecast of jobs gained due to automation), we have modeled the effects of self-driving vehicles beginning in 2020. Self-driving cars represent yet another form of automation that will upend how we live and work over the next decade.
This report has been covered in WIRED, the Wall Street Journal, and InformationWeek. There are many more insights in The Future of Jobs, 2025: Working Side-by-Side with Robots, which I invite clients to download and read!