A robot will soon be in charge of parking your car at Gatwick Airport.
A three-month trial is due to start at Gatwick in August this year, using 'Stan' the robot to park cars. Passengers leave their cars in an allocated shed-type box, check in on a computer, and jet off on their jollies, taking their car keys with them. Stan turns up, slides his robotic arms gently underneath the tyres (sounds weirdly seductive, doesn't it?), and whisks your car off for its own little holiday, in a vacant space.
When you return from you holiday, your car is waiting for you, as Stan has your flight information. He knows when you've landed, and gets your vehicle ready — here's hoping you didn't lose your car keys on that beach/rollercoaster/mountain.
Stan has been created by Stanley Robotics, which claims that a third more cars can be parked in the same space when Stan's in charge — there's no need for him to leave space for us mere mortals to get in and out of vehicles, so he packs them in tight. Like a high-stakes game of Tetris, we imagine.
We're not quite sure what happens if you come home from your holiday early and your car is trapped by four other cars, and is stuck. We hope Stan has a way of dealing with this.
He's 100% electric, reducing pollution around the airport, and even has little blue eyes, something which seems to be more for the benefits of humans than offering any practical use.
The car park is closed to the public (only the robots have access), making it secure against car theft. Preparations for the trial are currently underway at Gatwick, including creating a robot-friendly road surface and removing obstacles such as lamp posts. Similar trials are also taking place at airports in France and Germany.
We wonder how long this technology will be needed for, with the oncoming hype of self-driving cars. Could it not be redundant within 10 years? For now however, there is Stan.
Find out more on the Stanley Robotics website.