What can stop a car-lifting robot? A licensing contract - 2006-08-10
The story illustrates the importance of understanding intellectual property provisions in contracts. The city was apparently unaware that it did not own the software, and that ending its contract with Robotic could make it difficult to run the garage that the city had paid for. For highly specialized applications like this one, it can be difficult or even impossible to find another vendor who can provide software. Open source, which would solve these problems, is almost out of the question in these specialized situations.
The entire episode also illustrates a more pedestrian point: big construction projects featuring new technology often take longer than expected and come in over budget. This was the case with the automated parking garage, which was completed three years late and cost far more than expected. This set the stage for a bad working relationship between the city and Robotic from the start, one that never seems to have improved.
Gerhard Haag, the German-born founder of Robotic Parking, has faced his share of adversity. Back in Germany he was accused of 20 crimes, which he claims were attempts to persecute him for his belief in Scientology (when he came to the US, Haag moved to Clearwater, Florida, where Scientology has its spiritual headquarters; Robotic Parking is now based in the city). He also faced accusations early in the building process that neither he nor his company were qualified to do the work.