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Notebook Technology

Park it, please

(Aurélie Ladet/Zuma Press/Newscom)


Park it, please

Could robotic parking come to an airport near you?

Air travel these days is frequently a series of stressful events. But driving around a crowded parking garage looking for an open space, then schlepping your luggage to the terminal, may soon no longer be one.

An automated car-parking system, developed by Stanley Robotics and recently put into service at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, not only eases a traveler’s trip to the terminal, it makes more efficient use of limited parking space.

Using the system, travelers can reserve a parking spot ahead of time using a smartphone app. Once they reach the airport, they drop their car off at a designated garage close to the terminal. There’s no need to hand over the keys to an attendant: They simply lock the car and proceed to the terminal. “Stan,” a car-carrying robotic platform, slides under the car, picks it up by the wheels, and moves it to an open parking spot.

The automated car-parking system is connected to a traveler’s flight information, so his vehicle will be ready and waiting for him at the same drop-off point when he returns from his trip.

Since there’s no need to leave space for a driver to open a car door, Stan is able to place cars in much narrower parking spaces. Stanley Robotics claims the system can increase parking garage capacities by as much as 50 percent without any change in infrastructure.

(Environmental Defense Fund)

Mapping pollution

In a new approach to measuring air quality in cities, environmental scientists are using specially equipped Google “Street View” mapping cars to measure air pollution in Oakland, Calif. The effort has created what they believe is the largest, most spatially precise sets of air pollution data ever assembled.

In a study published in Environmental Science and Technology in June, researchers from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the University of Texas at Austin collaborated with Google as its Street View vehicles drove more than 14,000 miles of Oakland roads, taking three million unique measurements of dangerous pollutants such as nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide.

“The new mobile technology allows us to measure air pollution levels where people actually breathe the air—at street level,” Joshua Apte, a UT Austin assistant professor and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

EDF and its research partners have released the block-by-block air quality data in the form of interactive maps for use by regulators and residents. —M.C.


Baby saver

We hear the horror stories each summer: A child dies from heatstroke after being left too long in a hot vehicle by a distracted parent. An average of 37 children die each year as a result of what researchers call “forgotten baby syndrome,” when normally attentive parents or caregivers lose awareness that a child is still in the back of a car.

A new device called eClip aims to prevent such tragedies. The eClip attaches to a child’s car seat and connects to a parent’s smartphone via a Bluetooth-enabled app. An alert sounds if the parent walks more than 15 feet away from the vehicle. The eClip also monitors temperature in the car, sending an alert to the phone if the temperature exceeds 86 degrees Fahrenheit or falls below 59 degrees. —M.C.