The UK’s largest self-driving vehicle project, UK Autodrive, has been using public roads and car parks in Milton Keynes to demonstrate how connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) could make the search for parking spaces much easier in the future.
It has been estimated that during periods of heavy urban congestion, up to 30% of that traffic consists of vehicles looking for parking spaces. UK Autodrive project partners Ford, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) have demonstrated how cars could communicate with each other to notify drivers of available parking spaces, without the need for any additional parking bay sensors.
Upon entering the car park, the cars get an updated ‘heat map’ showing availability, while real-time updates from other connected cars show spaces filling and becoming vacant. JLR has also been using the occasion to separately showcase its latest self-driving vehicle technology, with one of its vehicles demonstrating another future parking solution by successfully driving itself to an available parking lot bay before parking itself.
As well as demonstrating potential future parking solutions, the three auto makers have also carried out their first public road trials of two connected car safety features:
The first involved an emergency vehicle warning (EVW) system, which alerts drivers when an emergency vehicle is approaching, and also indicates the direction it is coming from; and the second trial demonstrated an electronic emergency brake light (EEBL) feature that gives a warning when another connected car further up the road brakes heavily, potentially giving drivers several additional seconds to avoid a possible collision.
In addition to trialling road-based CAVs, the UK Autodrive project is due to trial a fleet of up to 40 low-speed self-driving ‘pod’ vehicles in pedestrianized areas of Milton Keynes over the summer.
A final set of UK Autodrive demonstrations, involving both types of vehicle, is then scheduled to be held in the autumn, at the project’s two host cities of Milton Keynes and Coventry.
“CAVs are expected to bring a large number of social benefits, such as improved road safety and reduced congestion, but the possible benefits in terms of parking should not be overlooked,” said Tim Armitage, Arup’s UK Autodrive project director.
“In the future, connected features will alert drivers to empty car park spaces and autonomous vehicles will be able to drive straight to them. Valet parking systems will enable autonomous vehicles to drop passengers at convenient points, after which the vehicle will leave by itself to undertake a further journey, or park out-of-town. These new ways of parking and drop-off will allow cities to radically redefine their use of space in the future, with far less land needed for parking.”