Self-Parking Cars Stall at Legal Hurdle?

Friday, 08 November 2013

Recent advances in car computerisation have been appearing thick and fast, as everything from heart-monitoring seats to driverless cars are tested on Britain's roads. However, a new report from the Telegraph has unearthed legislation that could mean that even relatively simple self-parking technology could be scuppered by UK and EU rules.

The aim of self-parking technology is to eliminate the headache of tricky parking manoeuvres (and the associated risks of scratches, dents and car insurance claims) by automating the process - and it's an added feature that's only becoming more desirable as Britain's parking spaces become increasingly inadequate for today's cars.

Manufacturers including BMW, Ford, Toyota and Volvo have been working hard to develop the technology, and the latest incarnation would enable motorists to stop beside a parking space and guide the car into position using a smartphone app, or a device provided by the manufacturer.

However, the Highway Code (and EU regulations) state that when a car is stopped, drivers must switch off the engine. The police have further clarified that the law forbids the engine to be left running in any circumstance when the car is unattended; including when loading or unloading the vehicle.

The good news is that although total automation may be off the table (for now), assisted parking may still be possible. Many manufacturers are already working on a system that will automate the steering process while leaving the driver in control of the gears and accelerator. This means that, in the strict sense of the law, motorists are staying in control of their vehicle.

Europe's car manufacturing trade body, ACEA, is currently negotiating legal agreements to bring the next stage of self-parking cars to the market; and a Ford spokesman told the Telegraph that they "could be ready to sell them within two years of getting the legal green light”.


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