Do you remember when you learnt to drive and the one manoeuvre that you really hope wouldn’t come up in the test was a parallel park? Well, under new legislation from the government, future drivers may not need to learn parallel parking because the car will be able to do it itself. The latest government strategy in the digitalisation of driving is inviting companies to bid for the £30 million in funding to develop self-driving and self-parking cars for the UK market.

New initiative

Business Minister Richard Harrington announced this month that companies are being invited to bid for the new funding which aims to bring self-driving vehicles to the UK roads. It is funded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and Meridian – the hub for testing autonomous technology operated by the government. The joint investing venture is part of the government’s aim to see fully self-driving cars on the road by 2021.

The new initiative has a big focus on self-parking cars with the aim of ending driver’s problems with getting into those tight parking spots. The self-driving technology will be able to park vehicles in a range of different scenarios without the need for human intervention.

Part of the scheme is to fund two public testing sites in urban settings which will be the first of their kind in Europe. The idea is part of the Industrial Strategy’s Mobility Grand Challenge, to invest and shape the design, development and manufacture the ‘transport system of tomorrow.’

Change in the law

The new scheme follows the new rules announced last month that make it possible for drivers to use remote control parking. The changes involved the Highway Code and relevant regulations and were changed after a consultation earlier in the year saw overwhelming support from everyone including car manufacturers, insurers, and even haulage companies.

The developments include remote control parking and motorway assist. They have the potential to change car travel for those who have mobility challenges, making it possible to use tight parking spaces with computer accuracy in the parking of the car. It also has the potential to make cars more energy efficiency, cheaper and cleaner to run which also improves air quality for pedestrians.

The recent changes to the law mean that the UK takes a step closer to making the legal side of self-driving vehicles more achievable. The government has also tasked the Law Commission with a full review of driving laws and an update to the code of practice is planned to help the UK remain a great place to drive, but also cope with the self-driving car revolution.

How self-parking works

The technology used for self-parking is much the same as for collision avoidance systems and, ultimately, what will be used to make self-driving cars. With parking being one of the top reasons for failing driving tests, and a significant issue for many drivers, the demand for it is clear.

Jaguar Land Rover began testing their self-parking vehicles around Milton Keynes earlier in the year with a black Range Rover complete with fancy graphics and roof-rack sensors. So far, a safety driver is always present during the tests. JLR see the move as the next step towards autonomous cars, getting drivers used to the idea of giving some control to the vehicle without ceding all control.

Ford is also testing new systems including one called Collaborative Parking where Artificial Intelligence (AI) can assist drivers with parking while not taking over the manoeuvre entirely. The car will display a diagram, inside the vehicle, with red and green spots to help the driver find the right open space. It helps cut down on time spent looking for the right parking spot which, their estimates show, could use as much as a full day every year per driver.

Leading the way

Business Minister, Richard Harrington, said that self-driving vehicles have the potential to ‘revolutionise the way we move people and goods across the UK’ as well as their part in making for a greener future. The UK is already leading the way in developing this kind of technology, and the new initiatives aim to increase the pace of the development by offering additional funding.

Now, remote control functions can be used in a variety of ways including a key fob from the manufacturer to a device on a mobile phone. Overall, the driver must continue to maintain overall vehicle control. Changes to the Highway Code mean that there will be clarity about the use of such systems as well as changing lanes on the motorway. It will also look at the rules around using handheld devices while in the driving seat.

The UK has made another step towards automated driving. However, the question remains as to how many UK drivers would be willing to give up control of their vehicle, to a computer, and sit back and enjoy the ride.

Would you be happy in a car where a human wasn’t in control? Alternatively, would you want to always be in control of your car? Let us know in the comments below

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