Automated Parking at Helms Campus


Automated Parking at Helms Campus

When you see a fully automated garage it can be impressive. When Dasher Lawless President and Founder Christopher Alan gives a tour, you literally climb into the machine and get to watch it work from the inside out.

This one is a five-story stand-alone fully automated parking structure, with 247 parking stalls on the Helms Bakery District Campus, in Culver City, CA. It features two Load Bays and delivers vehicles in 40-180 seconds. There are six remote retrieve kiosks throughout the campus which allow users to request their vehicles before arriving at the structure.

Designed by renowned architect Richard Keating, the project features an exterior fabric ‘skin’, manufactured by Ferrari, yes, that Ferrari. It seems opaque in the daytime, but at night, the fabric makes it possible to see into the facility and watch cars as they are moved to and from their parking spaces.

We started the tour in the lobby looking into the Load Bays. Here, Alan explained that the longest segment of a parking transaction is usually the driver loading and unloading passengers, kids, animals, and cargo in the Load Bay before the car is actually parked. As we were standing there, a driver entered the bay and, in fact, demonstrated Alan’s point by spending several minutes unloading his dog and the animal’s related equipment. 

As soon as the bay was clear, verified by high tech sensors surrounding the vehicle, the car was whisked away to be parked in the facility to await recall. 

We then climbed to the fifth floor and entered the cavernous machine. Inside, there were cars parked, and pallets stacked and stored ready for incoming cars. Alan called the central control operation in Ohio which monitors all the automated garages manufactured by Dasher Lawless. The engineer on duty then moved a shuttle and turned off the safety sensors, allowing us to walk across the machine safely so I could get the feel of the whole operation.

When discussing transactional times for retrieving cars, Alan detailed the process and factors involved that determine the individual times, including the number of requests at any one time and the location of the vehicle in the facility. The system was designed to retrieve a parker’s vehicle in less than 240 seconds. 

“To some, four minutes may seem like a long time, but frankly it’s less time than it actually takes to traditionally park in a typical concrete structured garage. By the time you wait for the elevator, then ride it to the fifth floor, walked to your car, load your stuff and then drive through the structure to the street, that process is typically 7-10 minutes,” Alan said. “The difference is one of perception. It’s one thing to spend 7 minutes climbing, walking, and driving, another to stand for three in anticipation. But users quickly learn the value.”

This facility has a beautifully designed glass lobby where parkers can wait for their vehicles while watching other cars arrive and depart. Monitors display where a driver’s car is in the queue and just when it will arrive. Once it
appears, glass doors open and the driver proceeds to his vehicle and exits onto the street.

According to Alan, automated garages often enable projects requiring parking to proceed when there is not enough room for standard parking structures. “An automated garage can park up to twice the number of vehicles as a standard garage on the same footprint, since there is no need for ramps, drive aisles, and space between the cars for drivers and passengers to enter and exit,” he noted. “Plus, the vehicles are safer and the driver and passengers aren’t exposed to other drivers while walking to their vehicles. Cars aren’t broken into in an AUTOParkit system because people don’t have access to the automated facility.”

The garage on the Helms Campus is designed for employee and valet use, and uses key fobs issued to parkers to access and recall vehicles. There are remote kiosks where users can recall their vehicles. Once recalled, the vehicles are queued and ready for retrieval when their drivers arrive at the structure. If users do not arrive in a preset period of time, the car is removed from the queue and returned to the parking area. 

When the garage is in a valet mode, a mobile valet kiosk is placed near the entrance and when the car is dropped off, the valet issues a two-part barcoded ticket. One part remains with the driver, the other is used to recall that specific vehicle when it is requested by the owner.

Other Dasher Lawless facilities, including a number in the LA area, operate as public garages allowing daily parkers as well as monthly users. The one-time parker simply pulls a bar coded ticket which activates the Loadbay, allowing the vehicle access to the garage. When the driver returns, they use the ticket to pay and retrieve their vehicle.

Dasher Lawless Automation operates under the name AUTOParkit. Other products include AUTOStorit, for storage operations, and AUTODockit, for boat storage facilities, AUTOChargit for EV charging and PARK Sentry for management of traditional parking lots. 

Alan pointed out that the company is strategically partnered with Siemens and uses their basic software, electrical and automation components. “From a software perspective it’s like using ‘Microsoft Word’ to write a document. The Word ‘document’ can be altered to fit the particular needs of a project’s requirements.” It also means that the facility owner, if desired, can take over the maintenance and operation of the facility by using any Siemens integrator. “So, an owner can never be held hostage by proprietary software,” Alan said.

John Van Horn is Parking Today’s editor and publisher. He can be reached at

EV charging:

A major problem with installing EV chargers in a traditional parking garage is the required infrastructure upgrades and number of charging units needed to charge cars. Dasher Lawless has solved that problem through AUTOChargit. AUTOChargit actually communicates with the car, making it possible to know once a car has been charged. AUTOChargit then terminates power to that car and directs it to the next car in the queue waiting to be charged. This technology can result in an infrastructure cost savings of over 10x to the property owner. 

Dasher Lawless’ approach is to have the ability for the facility to charge every vehicle parked with one tenth the infrastructure and equipment cost. Our technology makes both parking and EV charging affordable for the developers, the operators and the users.

Article contributed by:
John Van Horn
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