Car platforms resembling flying carpets that automatically park vehicles could cut fees and vastly expand space, Hong Kong’s urban renewal chief said on Thursday while outlining his vision for the next decade.
Wai Chi-sing, managing director of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), said each platform could cost up to HK$2 million (US$255,000), but parking fees would not necessarily go up as a result of the extra overheads.
A car park with 100 spaces would need two to four devices to provide a full service, he believed.
“Parking charges mainly depend on supply and demand,” he said. “If the smart system can add more parking slots ... it may help cut the price.”
Such systems would also mean cars could be parked in hard-to-reach spaces even if the size or shape was irregular. Drivers and passengers would leave their cars and let the robot park them in a space that best fit. The space between cars usually left for people to exit their vehicles would therefore be eliminated, reducing land needs and slashing construction costs, he said.
Wai added that another kind of automated system equipped with a lift and revolving platform could also save land by stacking cars on top of one another, and cut construction costs by 30 to 40 per cent.
“The money saved could be passed on to the car park users,” he said.
But more thorough studies were necessary, Wai cautioned.
Automated car parks, underground roads and ‘electric flying carpets’: Check out urban renewal chief’s futuristic vision for Hong Kong’s parking problem
Wai said the technology could be introduced to urban renewal planning processes in as little as five years, but he was unable to name specific locations that might benefit in future.
Two URA redevelopment projects in Kwun Tong and Kowloon City set to open for bids from private developers in mid-2020 would not feature the technology, he said, because outstanding technical and regulatory problems could not be resolved within a year.
“A second batch of projects will take place in 2024. We predict that, in 2024, we may have enough time to apply automated parking systems to these projects,” he said.
The actual roll-out of the technology would come several years after that date, he predicted.
Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Hui Tak-leung said finding a parking space had been very hard in his area and queues outside car parks were common.
Hui, the local council’s chairman of traffic, transport and its housing committee, said he would be concerned about the effect on parking fees and whether the systems would create noise.
“As a resident I would look at whether the charge is expensive and whether the place is efficient. If I have to wait 10 minutes to get in and the cost is over HK$100, I would rather not have it,” Hui said.
A subsidy to bring prices into line with regular car parks would make the technology popular, he added.
On Wednesday the city’s chief auditor said Hong Kong needed more public parking spaces and must do a better job of managing the facilities.
A report by the Audit Commission found the city’s ratio of public spaces to privately owned cars dropped from 1:1.5 in 2006 to 1:1.1 in 2018.
Since 2016 the number of cars has increased by more than 50 per cent to about 616,000. The auditor predicted vehicles would outnumber spaces in the next few years.