Insurers warn carmakers against the use of the word “autonomous”
18 June 2018
Car insurers warns use of the word “autonomous” in car manufacturer marketing and literature is lulling drivers into a false sense of security.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) and Thatcham Research have stated there needs to be clearer principles around the capability of vehicles sold under the banner of “autonomous”. A new testing regime to assess the functionality of driver assistance systems will mark down potentially misleading names and dangerous functionality.
James Dalton, Director of General Insurance Policy at the ABI, said:
“Insurers are major supporters of efforts to get assisted and autonomous vehicles onto the UK’s roads. Given the part human error plays in the overwhelming majority of accidents, these technologies have the potential to dramatically improve road safety. However, we are a long way from fully autonomous cars which will be able to look after all parts of a journey and in the meantime, it remains crucial that all drivers are alert and ready to take back full control at a moment’s notice. Manufacturers must be responsible in how they describe and name what their vehicles can do, and the insurance industry is ready to hold them to account on this.”
Key elements of the tests will include:
• Studying the manufacturers’ promotional literature and driving manuals to find out how clearly the systems’ capabilities and drivers’ responsibilities are explained;
• How drivers cope with enabling, activating, operating and deactivating the systems;
• Assessment of what happens when the driver is required to take back control, whether routinely or in an emergency (such as collision threats involving stationary and slow-moving vehicles in the road ahead, cars cutting across paths and accidents involving pedestrians)
• Will the assisted technology always comply with the law, for example adjusting to local speed limits?
Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said in response this news:
“The Institution welcomes the suggestion that car manufacturers should be clearer in their descriptions of new automated and assistive driving technologies. It is evident that confusion exists between what a fully autonomous vehicle can do and the capability of those with assistive driving technologies and this confusion could be dangerous. The Institution has provided details of what these emerging technologies mean for drivers and the table shows the different levels of autonomy. Making these distinctions is an important part of communicating the continually changing passenger vehicle environment.
“In 2016, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in our Case Study on Autonomous and Driverless Cars raised the need to address societal questions before highly and fully automated cars are both accepted and legally able to be positioned on our roads. We highlighted that this will include having the right regulatory framework in place, to which I would now add including a public awareness campaign around the five different levels of driving automation.”
Read the full release from Thatcham here.