At the Dusseldorf airport, robotic valet parking is now reality. You step out of your car. You press a button on a touch screen. And then a machine lifts your car off the ground, moving all three tons of it into a kind of aerial parking bay. Built by a German company called Serva Transport, the system saves you time. It saves garage space, thanks to those carefully arranged parking spots. And it’s a sign of so many things to come.
But the one thing it doesn’t do, says J.P. Gownder, an analyst with the Boston-based tech research firm Forrester, is steal jobs. In fact, it creates them. Before installing the robotic system, the airport already used automatic ticket machines, so the system didn’t replace human cashiers. And now, humans are needed to maintain and repair all those robotic forklifts. “These are not white-collar jobs,” Gownder tells WIRED. “This is the evolution of the repair person. It’s harder to fix a robot than it is to fix a vending machine.”