UK’s largest connected and autonomous vehicle project tackles city centre parking

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A ground-breaking UK trial of connected and autonomous vehicle technology has been demonstrating how parking difficulties could soon be a thing of the past.

The UK Autodrive project has been using public roads and car parks in Milton Keynes to show how connected and autonomous vehicles could make the search for parking spaces much easier in future.


Project partners Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) demonstrated on Thursday 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.

Jaguar Land Rover are also using the occasion to separately showcase their latest self-driving vehicle technology, with the Jaguar Land Rover vehicle demonstrating another future parking solution by successfully driving itself to an available car park bay before parking itself.

In times of heavy traffic congestion, it has been estimated that up to 30% of that traffic consists of vehicles looking for parking spaces*. The technology being trialled as part of the UK Autodrive project is intended to take the guesswork out of finding spaces by sending information about available spaces directly to connected or autonomous cars.

“Connected and autonomous vehicles are expected to bring a large number of social benefits, from improved road safety to an easing of traffic congestion due in part by a reduction in accidents. The possible benefits in terms of parking should also 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. As well as making parking less of a hassle for individuals, 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 potentially needed for parking spaces in city centres.”

As well as demonstrating potential future parking solutions, the three car manufacturers 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 which direction it is coming from.

The second trial demonstrated an Electronic Emergency Brake Light (EEBL) feature which 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 connected and autonomous road-based vehicles, the UK Autodrive project is due to trial a fleet of up to 40 low-speed self-driving ‘pod’ vehicles in pedestrianised 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, in the project’s two host cities of Milton Keynes and Coventry.

*Donald Shoup, “The High Cost of Free Parking” (based on an examination of 16 studies conducted around the world between 1927 and 2001) 

List of connected car features being trialled within the UK Autodrive programme:

Emergency Vehicle Warning (EVW) – Sends a signal directly from the emergency vehicle (e.g. ambulance, fire engine, police vehicle) to nearby connected cars. Driver is informed that the emergency vehicle is approaching and advised to make way for it.

Intersection Collision Warning (ICW) – Warns the driver when it is unsafe to enter an intersection, due to a high probability of collision with other vehicles.

In-Vehicle Signage (IVS) – Sends information about road conditions, congestion or other incidents directly to the in-car display, rather than having to rely on expensive gantry systems.

Electronic Emergency Brake Light (EEBL) – Alerts the driver when a vehicle in front suddenly brakes, providing advanced warning, especially when the driver is unable to see the lights of the braking vehicle due to weather conditions, road layout or other vehicles in between.

Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory (GLOSA) – Sends traffic light information to the connected car which is able to calculate the optimal speed for approaching the lights, potentially minimising the number of red light stops, improving traffic flow and reducing emission levels from idling vehicles.

Intersection Priority Management (IPM) – Assigns priority when two or more connected vehicles come to an intersection without priority signs or traffic lights.

Collaborative Parking – Provides real-time information about free parking spaces either in the vicinity or close to the driver’s final destination.