Clarity needed on autonomous vehicles, say insurers04 August 2017

British insurers are warning about the potential dangers of ‘autonomous ambiguity’, as vehicles with different levels of autonomy, or driverless technology, increasingly become a feature of UK roads.

While UK insurers strongly support vehicle automation, believing it will reduce accidents, they are also cautioning that intermediate automated systems could lead to driver confusion.

A white paper, ‘Regulating automated driving’, has been published by the Automated Driving Insurer Group (ADIG), led by the Association of British Insurers in conjunction with Thatcham Research.

The report, while aimed at the car market, has many interesting parallels for commercial vehicles.

It says a vehicle should only be marketed as automated if the driver can safely disengage in the knowledge that the car has sufficient capabilities to deal with virtually all situations on the road, and the vehicle can stop safely if it encounters a situation it can’t handle.

In addition, the autonomous system should be able to avoid all conceivable crash scenarios and function adequately in the event of a partial system failure; both insurers and vehicle manufacturers must be able to immediately access data to identify whether the driver or vehicle is liable in the case of an accident, without ambiguity.

“Vehicles with intermediate systems that offer assisted driving still require immediate driver intervention if the car cannot deal with a situation,” says Peter Shaw, CEO of Thatcham Research.

“Systems like these are fast emerging and unless clearly regulated, could convince drivers that their car is more capable than it actually is. This risk of autonomous ambiguity could result in a short-term increase in crashes.”

David Williams, ADIG chairman and head of underwriting at AXA, says: “Autonomous vehicles will make our roads much safer, but inappropriate use or marketing of intermediate technology could confuse road users and cause unnecessary accidents.

“Clarity over system capability and commitment to share vehicle data with insurers will help public confidence, and help rather than hinder development in this area.”

The paper also urges vehicle manufacturers to use clear names for assisted driving systems. Shaw adds: “Vehicle manufacturers should be judicious in badging and marketing such systems, avoiding terms which could be misinterpreted as denoting full autonomy.

“Hybrid systems which creep into the intermediate grey area between assisted and automated should also be avoided.”

To download a copy of the white paper, click the link below.

Laura Cork

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