record feat: A mind-boggling 1,191 vehicles can be parked at Emirates Financial Towers now Image Credit: XPRESS/VIRENDRA SAKLANI

Dubai: Can’t find cheap parking when visiting Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)?

Take heart, because for just Dh5 an hour your car will be safely tucked away by an automated parking system at Emirates Financial Towers (EFT), a few metres from the Ritz-Carlton DIFC. That’s half the fee charged by neighbouring buildings in the free zone.

EFT’s automated parking system — the world’s biggest robotic parking facility — opened to the public on January 15.

“The rates depend on usage,” said Rabih Aghnatios, Technical Manager for Mag Robotic Systems (MRS), which built the facility. “It’s Dh5 for the first hour, Dh5 for the second hour and Dh10 for the third hour. From 7pm, there’s a flat fee of Dh15 until 7am the next day.”

Customers who shop or dine at outlets in the 25-storey building get free parking upon validation of their tickets, he said. Though the installation is the second in the UAE (MRS also built a smaller robotic parking complex at the Ibn Battuta Gate Offices), the one at EFT is record-breaking — it can fit in 1,191 vehicles, which has earned it a Guinness World Record.

The magic begins after you drive into a bay that looks like an auto-paint box. Each bay is equipped with 16 sensors to make sure that the vehicle is parked properly and there are no people in the vehicles.

After parking, a customer must key in his name and car plate number, go through a checklist of things to do before leaving his vehicle — turn lights off, put the handbrake on, take out valuables, clip side mirrors, etc.

More vehicles

“This allows us to fit three times more vehicles within a given space compared to conventional parking,” said Aghnatios, who previously helped build the 84-km automated baggage handling system at Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 3.

While the software was developed by Dubai-based Bond Communications and a Bahraini counterpart, the hardware was put together from various suppliers —motors from the US, sensors and payment machines from Germany and gearboxes from Japan.

CCTV cameras monitor every corner of the facility.

For an additional Dh25, motorists can also have their cars cleaned by using high-pressure nozzles.

A GPS app can also guide customers to take the shortest route and reserve a parking slot from their iPhone. The system can be linked to the police for vehicle tracking.

The computer server has a ‘mirror’ server in case the first one crashes, connected to an uninterrupted power supply. A standby generator kicks in within 20 seconds during a power outage.

Regular users can also send an SMS ahead to avoid a three-minute wait for their cars to be ready. After paying the parking fee to a machine, a queue system displays a customer’s name on several LED screens.

Then off he can go.