Image: leya404/reddit (used with permission). Art by Jason Torchinsky

In Scotland, a state-of-the-art automated parking garage shut down 15 years ago after going bankrupt, leading many to speculate that vehicles were left stuck within its confines. Recently, demolition crews have been tearing the old garage down, revealing that indeed, there are still cars inside.

This story started making rounds on the internet after Redditer leya404 took this photo showing four abandoned cars sitting in the mysterious “robot car park” in Edinburgh, which is actively being torn down to make way for an office building:

Image: leya404/reddit (used with permission).

Here’s a closer look at the decrepit vehicles inside, which include an Austin Maestro and a Fiat Uno:

Image: leya404/reddit (used with permission).

Based on the flat tires, it’s clear the cars have been there a while; according to the Evening Edinburgh News, the company turning the garage into a new £30 million “office block” says the cars have sat in the building for about 15 years.

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As for who ditched the cars and why, BBC News has a number of theories. The news site mentions that some folks believe owners simply weren’t able to pick up their cars from the shuttered garage, while others think the drivers may have lost track of their vehicles after having a few too many drinks. But someone who claims to have worked at the garage provides what seems like a more plausible theory: The cars were actually owned by the garage and used for testing. The news site writes:

However, the most likely explanation came from a man who claims to have worked there in the car park’s early days.
He posted on Facebook: “I used to work here when it first opened and they did buy so many bangers for testing it before it opened.“I know one car was a Maestro and they also had a Volvo.“The reason it never worked was something to do with the bolts that they used causing the mechanism to move.“Many a time we had to got inside and manually retrieve the cars using a joystick.”

The £5 million Autosafe “SkyPark” was hot stuff back when it opened in Edinburgh in 2001, representing what some thought would be the future of urban parking with its automated vehicle-organization system. Here’s how the fancy garage worked, the Evening Edinburgh News explains:

Motorists would drive in and be directed to one of four brightly-coloured bays at the entrance of the building.

Sensors then scanned the cars to gauge their dimensions and ensured they were unoccupied before automatically transporting them to the nearest space via lifts, turntables and “robot shuttles”.

When drivers returned they inserted their parking ticket into a pay machine which automatically signalled for the car to be retrieved.

The vehicle was then presented and ready to drive away within three minutes at an exit onto the West Approach Road.

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But in 2003, only a couple of years after opening, the automated parking garage went belly-up (because of, BBC News speculates, high maintenance costs associated with the technology), and for over a decade, the building has sat abandoned. For a while, rumors have floated around that some cars were trapped in the old garage, which you can see below (the windowless part on the back of the building). And now we know those rumors were true.

Austin Maestros and a Fiat Unos aren’t exactly collectables, but the Evening Edinburgh News says the cars aren’t necessarily headed to the scrapper, because the company handling the demolition claims it will make “every effort... to save them.”

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So if you’re in Scotland looking for a low-mileage shitbox, this might be the opportunity of a lifetime.