News today in the mainstream media is that self driving cars will appear on UK roads later this year. It’s baloney of course. Apart from the tabloid newspapers, even the BBC has run with the popular myth – but it is a myth, and the BBC should really do better than publish such misleading headlines. Here are some words of caution from Thatcham Research and the ABI;
Responding to the UK Government’s announcement today (28 April 2021) around paving the way for Automated Driving, Thatcham Research and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) are urging caution.
“There is still a lot of work needed by both legislators and the automotive industry before any vehicle can be classed as automated and allowed safely on to the UK roads,” comments Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research.
“Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) as currently proposed by the Government are not automated. They are assisted driving systems as they rely on the driver to take back control.
“Aside from the lack of technical capabilities, by calling ALKS automated our concern also is that the UK Government is contributing to the confusion and frequent misuse of assisted driving systems that have unfortunately already led to many tragic deaths.
CLEAR MESSAGES TO THE PUBLIC ARE URGENTLY NEEDED
As usual the MSM have got it slightly wrong, and Avery adds;
“A widespread and effective ongoing communications campaign led by the automotive industry and supported by insurers and safety organisations is essential if we are going to address current and future misconceptions and misuse.”
Thatcham Research and the ABI believe there are four non-negotiable criteria that need to be met before ALKS can be classified as automated:
- The vehicle must have the capability, and be allowed through legislation, to safely change lanes to avoid an incident
- The vehicle must have the capability to find a “safe harbour” at the side of the road and not stop in a “live” lane
- The systems on the vehicle must be able to recognise UK road signs and this needs to be assured by an independent organisation
- Data must be made available remotely through a neutral server for any incident to verify who was “in charge” at the time of the incident – the driver or the vehicle.
“We have engaged closely with the UK Government around their Call for Evidence on ALKS,” continues Matthew Avery, “and look forward to ensuring that future technologies such as ALKS can be adopted safely to reduce road casualties.”
Mark Shepherd, Assistant Director, Head of General Insurance Policy, Association of British Insurers, said:
“While the insurance industry fully supports the development towards more automated vehicles, drivers must not be given unrealistic expectations about a system’s capability. It is vital that Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS), which rely on the driver to take back control, are not classed as automated, but as assisted systems. By keeping this distinction clear we can help ensure that the rules around ALKS are appropriate and put driver and passenger safety first.
“Thatcham Research has identified some concerning scenarios where ALKS may not operate safely without the driver intervening. These need to be addressed in the consultation.”
HANG ON, THIS TRANSPORT RESEARCH LAB COMMENT NEEDS A MENTION
Automated vehicle technologies are set to bring disruptive change to the way we use transport. One such technology is Automatic Lane Keeping System (ALKS), which utilises advanced camera and sensor technology to control the position and speed of a car (up to 37mph) in a single lane without driver engagement.
Following a consultation last year, the government has today confirmed that vehicles with ALKS technology can be legally defined as self-driving, making ALKS the first type of hands-free driving to be legalised in the UK. This major milestone could mean we see Level 3 automated vehicles operating on our roads later in 2021.
We have begun a decade of considerable change for the automotive industry. To ensure the continued safety of road users, it is critical that all stakeholders – from collision investigators to insurers – maintain pace with technological change and evolve in tandem. A new automotive environment is coming, and all sectors involved in transport must begin preparations now.
Are you confused yet? Well that’s understandable. Fact is, we need to stop using terms like `automated driving Level 3/21′ and so on. Replace it with Assisted Driving Mode 3/2/1 and you may be able to educate drivers regarding this developing technology. Once you say the word automated then people start to switch off their brains.
For insurers there has to be an agreed, international standard of what a self-driving, autonomous car can do. Some may say that means driving in a straight line at 37mph on a motorway where the traffic is flying past at 70mph. But we disagree. The definition should be something like this;
`Self driving mode means the car’s software has replaced the driver, when making decisions on road positioning, speed, braking, steering and negotiating junctions, both observing and reacting to vehicular traffic, other road users or obstacles in a timely manner, with 99% accuracy.’
Because anything less is frankly driver assistance in particular circumstances. What we have now in terms of tech is assisted driving and we need to define it as such in every transport law, insurance policy or experimental prototype vehicle. Once we have idiots thinking they can flick a cruise control switch on and the car magically does it all, we have a recipe for tragic accidents. That’s the lesson we should all learn from today’s lamentable MSM coverage.
Neil Atherton, Sales and Marketing Director, Autoglass® says:
“From automated emergency braking (AEB) to automated lane keeping system (ALKS), the automotive industry has taken huge steps to introduce advanced safety technology to the vehicles on our roads, and the technology is set to become even more prevalent in the future. Keeping up with the pace of change is crucial if we want drivers to benefit from the safety aspects of this increasingly complex technology, but we are still a long way from being able to hand full responsibility over to the vehicle.
“The government must comprehensively address the issue of responsibility before these new laws can be brought into effect, and that includes the maintenance and upkeep of advanced driver assistance systems. We, as members of the industry, must also step up and play our role in educating drivers around the importance of correctly maintaining this technology to ensure that it is working accurately and safely.
As we move up the levels of automation, it is crucial that the government supports this with necessary legislation to ensure that recalibrations are performed as required and by appropriately skilled technicians using approved tools and equipment. Where safety is concerned, it is vital that the whole industry is held to the same high standard, so this technology is allowed to reach its full potential.”