How would you feel if you found out your parking garage was being run by robots? The idea may seem like a scene out of a sci-fi movie, but it is a concept that many real estate developers and property owners are starting to embrace to save land, reduce operating costs, and help the environment.

Newgard Development, www.newgardgroup.com, Miami, Fla., for example, just announced that it will be using a robotic parking garage system in its latest residential condominium project in Miami, FL. The 46-story, luxury Brickellhouse development will include 480 parking spaces operated by the RoboticValet parking system from Boomerang Systems, Inc., www.boomerangsystems.com, Florham Park, N.J. And Brickellhouse isn’t alone. Boomerang says three other developments in Florida are under contract to use the system, as well as several contracts in New Jersey, Virginia, Kansas, Mississippi, and California.

Automated parking systems have been around for about 10 years, but robotic valet is a bit different. Unlike automated rack and rail systems that stack vehicles vertically and can often create loading and unloading bottlenecks, Boomerang’s valet system looks more like a traditional parking garage—except that it is powered by robots, of course. Using AGV (automated guided vehicle), the system uses robotic platforms that drive on concrete slab floors to transport vehicles to and from parking spaces. Drivers simply drop off their car in a central loading area, and the garage takes care of the rest. That means no more searching for a good spot or remembering where you parked.

Other benefits include increased safety and security. By eliminating human interaction, the automated system reduces the chances of fender benders, door dings, and theft. Users no longer have to walk through dark parking garages and may even save a little gas since the robotic platforms are doing the driving.

Automated systems like Boomerang’s also take up less space–a huge benefit for developers. The technology eliminates the need for building ramps and reduces the number of drive aisles allowing the cars to fit in roughly half the space required by a conventional garage. Harvey Hernandez, managing director, Newgard, says the system actually allows Brickellhouse to develop more residential units than would have been possible with a traditional parking garage.

Hernandez was also drawn to the “green” benefits of the robotic parking system. Because cars are turned off as soon as they enter the loading dock, carbon emissions are eliminated. The amount of electricity needed to run the garage is also reduced, since less lighting and ventilation equipment are needed. One of Boomerang’s projects in Mississippi will take the green concept even further and include alternative fueling stations for recharging multiple plug-in electric vehicles.

According to Hernandez, the technology is more than a niche product; it is a “game changer.” The business benefits are certainly there for developers, and the convenience and safety of automated valet certainly makes it attractive to residents. Suddenly, a garage run by robots doesn’t sound quite so far-fetched, does it?