Robotic parking garages, albeit very few and far between, aren't exactly new creations, but the original fully-automated deck in Hoboken, New Jersey has found itself the center of unwanted attention. For those unfamiliar with the process, bustling commuters follow computerized instructions to park (and exit) their vehicle on a steel slab, where the car is then hoisted upward and slid into an open bay until recalled. The robotic car shufflers can cram 324 vehicles into a 100- by 100-foot lot, which is more than double the amount traditional lots hold. But all has not been well for the automated car-lifters -- the city of Hoboken has been locked in a bitter dispute with Robotic Parking, which owns the software that operates the garage, over a contractual violation dealing with the intellectual property owned solely by the company. After the city decided to change the deck's management, they failed to stop using the proprietary software that was licensed to them, while succeeding in cutting off Robotic Parking's royalties. As expected, legal blows starting flying as Hoboken reportedly claimed there were "booby traps" in the company's software (but they kept using it?), while Robotic Parking demanded reparations for the unpaid use of their code. The dust has began to settle, at least somewhat, as both parties recently agreed to a deal in which the city shells out $5,500 / month for "licensure and support" of the software for the next three years, after which we assume Robotic Parking will promptly be kicked to the curb. This definitely isn't the first time lawsuits have caused headaches in consumer electronics, and it's presumably not the last, but it just goes to show that you should probably see if certain things are "reserved" before pulling on in.

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