Self-Parking Cars Not Compatible With Out-Dated Laws Photo:
Trevor Collett | Oct, 30 2013 | 5 Comments

Autonomous cars might be increasingly occupying the thoughts and efforts of carmakers, but it seems there is one area of significant importance that may have been overlooked; the law.

A report from The Telegraph in the UK has raised the issue this week, suggesting that current laws in Britain and Europe don’t allow cars to park themselves.

Quite simply, a driver is not allowed to leave a vehicle “unattended” while the engine is running.

Several carmakers are currently developing self-parking technology, including Volvo, which demonstrated its system earlier this year.

It is hoped that a driver can one day stop at a destination while their car continues around the block or parking lot unaided, looking for the nearest parking space.

This will eventually save time, fuel and space as cars begin to communicate with each other and satellite navigation can direct a car to the nearest unoccupied parking space. Cars can also park closer together, as there is no need to open the driver’s door.

Self-parking should also eliminate bumps and scrapes usually associated with inner-city driving, including the dreaded ‘gutter-rash’ on wheels and tyres.

The owner can even use a smartphone to command their car to pick them up again, when they are ready to leave.

Australia is in a similar situation to Europe, with local laws designed to improve safety and combat car theft also prohibiting a driver from leaving an active vehicle ‘unattended’.

It is an offence to leave the keys in the ignition (even if the engine is not running), leave windows open or leave a vehicle unlocked if you are more than three metres away. Failing to apply the parking brake is also an offence.

Therefore, how can a vehicle legally park itself if the driver is not behind the wheel?

Speaking with The Telegraph, a Ford spokesman said that the technology is ready but the law is standing in the way.

“We could be ready to sell [the system] within two years of getting the legal green light,” the spokesman said.

“Parking spaces are getting smaller and it is an aspect of driving some people have less confidence with than others.”

Laws are not overlooked by the police either, with many drivers booked for ‘warming-up’ their cars while unattended on bitterly cold European mornings.

The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association is currently in talks with officials in an effort to have the laws amended.

As for similar laws here in Australia, watch this space.

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