Tokyo's underground bike-storage robots

Culture Japan Network TV shows us the underground bicycle-parking robots of Shinagawa, Tokyo. These machines ingest RFID-tagged bicycles and whisk them into their bowels and set them lovingly into huge subterranean crypts, from which they are robotically disinterred when their owners are ready to ride. Each machine holds 200 bikes. The manufacturer's representative explains that storing bikes underground protects them from "pranks" and frees up surface area for better applications, but inexplicably the area around the robo-ingesters is a blank field of paving bricks of approximately the same area that the bikes would occupy on the surface.

Underground Bicycle Parking Systems in Japan (via Kadrey)

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    1. I suspect that there are sensors that would keep the thing from doing much of anything.  I think the kiosk yelled at him for standing too close at about 2:45. 

  1. I would think that the blank area around shows the extent of the storage, but the space above would be perfect for a kiosk, or having a few of these around a mall.

    What’s confusing to me is why they chose a radial rather than a cubic storage system, it looked like there was a lot of wasted space.

    1. The radial is cheaper to build /operate / maintain.  The main mechanism goes up and down a single pole, and rotates into place.  A cubic solution would require lateral movement – more space, but more parts and gears.

    2. My impression was that each of those three kiosk things served a single silo, so that amount of space was storage for 600 bikes. I don’t know how much surface area 600 secure bike parking spots would take up, but I would imagine that even if you could cram it into that area, you wouldn’t be able to walk through the area any more.

      1. What’s shown in the photo would be totally unusably crowded with 200 parked bikes. 

    3. Handlebars means the front of the bike will be wider than the rear, so radial is probably efficient.  Additionally, the mechanics of the robot would be easier on a single rotating axis instead of an X and Y axis for a cube-system.

      On a side note, what’s with the big-boobed anime at the beginning of the video?  Must Japan reduce everything to Otaku?

      1.  DannyChoo is a sort of otaku celebrity/entrepreneur who seems (at my guess to have cut himself a deal with Tokyo english-language cable TV.

        1.  He’s basically a professional otaku.

          Also, the son of world-famous shoe designer Jimmy Choo.

  2. “but inexplicably the area around the robo-ingesters is a blank field of paving bricks of approximately the same area that the bikes would occupy on the surface.”

    Blank fields of bricks are a welcome sight in a crowded city, with lots of pedestrians walking around. I see nothing inexplicable or inefficient about this.

  3. Oh those wacky pranksters. They mean well, but sometimes they go too far.

    Seriously, I think this probably works in Japan, but if it were here in DC, I’d assume I’d never see my bike again. “We’re sorry, the bicycle you have requested is no longer available.” Maybe I’d get lucky and it’d just come back mangled

      1.  Pretty much. Low crime rate to begin with, and bikes are about as common (and cheap) as dirt there, so very little incentive. You leave a bike somewhere unlocked, and it’ll probably still be there a week later.

        A friend who forgot to lock his up did have his bike stolen once… but it was returned the next day.

        1. Tell that to my friend who just had her bike stolen in Tokyo a few weeks ago… xO

    1.   Whammy blammy wowee zowee you’ve just been pranked!

      I had a Stifly Stifferson bend my forks when my bike was locked up and I wanted to prank him into a million pieces.

    2. “Prank” is a bad translation of いたずら, or trouble-making. What it actually means in this context is vandalism or theft.

      Bike theft is in fact a serious problem in Japan.

    1. …and your photo looks just like the piles of bikes I saw outside of most Tokyo stations. In fact all over Tokyo there were bikes locked everywhere, and very often unlocked too! Freaked me out. I’d choose the robo-parking service gladly though if I had a bike in four figures, which is not so uncommon anymore –

  4. I’ve been practicing underground bike parking for years before it came so mainstream and “automated”

  5. Basically, if you’re a junkie and want to jack somebody’s bike you look for the little chip in the corner and know that this asshole can totally afford another fucking ride and jack that shit. Way to put a badge on the weiners. 

  6. Cory, you should change the spelling to ‘Shinagawa’, with an ‘A’. The way it’s spelled right now could mean ‘Death River’, which isn’t a very nice name…

  7. “… and frees up surface area for better applications, but inexplicably the area around the robo-ingesters is a blank field of paving bricks of approximately the same area that the bikes would occupy on the surface.”

    The video shows the storage space stacks the bikes vertically underneath each machine, rows upon rows, so there are likely more bikes stored on the same square footage area than if they were all up on the same surface.

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