Vehicle automation: remote control parking to be permitted from June 2018
Posted 17/05/2018 : By: Tim Ridyard
Changes in vehicle technology mean changes in the existing law must often be made. Otherwise drivers cannot lawfully use vehicles with that new technology. The development of automation means very many changes will have to take place over many years e.g. insurance.
There are different levels of vehicle automation: from “driver only” (where the driver remains in control of everything at all times) to “fully automated” (where the driver, if present, is only in control when the automation system is not in use). There are various grades of automation in between. Some cars are already fitted with technology to assist drivers in various ways, e.g. cruise control, lane keep assist, etc.
The government has confirmed it will amend the existing regulations and various parts of the Highway Code so that remote control parking and motorway assist systems can be used and so that drivers have clear picture of when and how they must be used.
Remote control parking allows a driver to park a vehicle when outside the vehicle using a mobile device (smart phone, remote control, smart watch etc.) by commanding the vehicle to park itself. Motorway assist controls a vehicle’s speed and lane position on high-speed roads such as motorways.
Parking by remote control can potentially provide benefits, reducing the time taken to park and the likelihood of parking accidents. It may also assist less experienced or less confident drivers or those with mobility issues. But, whilst this change will allow a person to use a mobile telephone or other device to perform a remote control parking procedure it is not currently permissible for a driver to deploy a mobile phone or other device whilst driving. Therefore the law needs to be modified, giving clarity as to what is to be permitted.
When using a handheld device to park it will have to be safe to do so and the shortest route possible is to be used. Drivers will to remain in control of the parking procedure at all times and must not use their phone or device for anything else. There must not be a distance of more than 6 metres between the vehicle and the telephone or device being used to park the vehicle; there must also be continuous activation of the remote control application of the telephone/device by the driver and the signal between the vehicle and the telephone or device must be maintained.
Drivers will therefore still be responsible for any vehicle when any driver assistance system is being used. They will have to be in full control at all times.
Revised regulations will be published and are intended to come into force in June 2018. The Highway Code is also to be amended in relation to the use of driver assistance systems whilst driving, the danger of distractions and their usage in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Whether motorway assistance or remote control parking is used, this is regarded as a “partially automated” use of the vehicle and the driver still has responsibility over the vehicle at all times. The driver still has to actively monitor the road environment and intervene where necessary.
This is just one part of a wider review of current driving laws that were created for vehicles before new technology was introduced. In March 2018 the Government introduced a three year review of driving laws by the Law Commission to look at changing traditional laws to address the new world of self-driving vehicles (where there is no driver at all) or vehicle automation (where a driver is in control of a car which has different grades of automation).
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