Thatcham Research says

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.

“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.”

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.”

Steve Nash, CEO of the IMI comments on the news that self-steering cars will be on UK roads later this year

“The UK is in a race … a race for zero emissions and a race for mobility solutions that don’t need a driver. But I fear the government’s current impetus is not necessarily underpinned by solid infrastructure to ensure the next generation of vehicles can be maintained and repaired safely by a widely accessible network of technicians.
“The IMI has already cited the serious deficit in technicians qualified to work on electric vehicles; currently we’re at just 5%. A skilled workforce for vehicles featuring Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) is better populated – but it’s still an area of concern as a whole. And the reality is this currently presents a much bigger risk for road users than electric vehicles.

“Connected and autonomous technologies are crucial to advancing the safety and performance of vehicles for all road users. But it will only work if it is accurately calibrated at all times and whilst ADAS technology is certified at manufacture, we firmly believe there is room for improvement to ensure that automotive technicians repairing vehicles fully understand ADAS technology so that all systems are precisely and accurately calibrated before a vehicle goes back on the road.

“The IMI has been championing the setting of standards to ensure that technicians are appropriately qualified to work on vehicles involving ADAS as well as electrified vehicles through the IMI TechSafe banner. We have already launched IMI ADAS Accreditation, designed and developed in collaboration with industry organisations, to help ensure technicians have the expertise to work with ADAS features in vehicles, protecting the safety of drivers when this technology is activated. But market penetration is not yet comprehensive and that is where I fear the government’s plans could come unstuck.

“We urgently urge government and its advisors to engage with the IMI to ensure that the repair and maintenance infrastructure is ready for autonomous motoring. As the industry’s professional body, working with broad based sector advisory groups, we are best placed to ensure that appropriate standards are developed, adopted and, ideally, supported by appropriate regulation.”

On the news that self-driving vehicles could be on UK roads this year, Hojol Uddin, Head of Motoring and Partner at JMW Solicitors, comments:

“Cars already have some driverless technology which has assisted a lot of drivers to avoid accidents such as collision assist, cameras, lane assist, driver alert (when tired) and so on. It will take some time for people to adapt but it is definitely a positive step forward in safer driving. However, it is also likely to attract cyber criminals, so security of driverless vehicles is paramount.”

On insurance: “It is likely that insurers will dedicate specific exclusions for their policies once the first phase of vehicles are being tested and they see what occurs with these transition demands. I wouldn’t be surprised if insurers themselves adapt technology alongside manufacturers to monitor what a driver is doing or not in driverless cars, for the purposes of liability and cover.”

On the Highway Code: “The Highway Code will have to be changed entirely to determine the relevance of certain rules. For example will the driver really need to know stopping distances and times if the computer is going to do the thinking for you as well as the stopping. In addition, will it be necessary for mirror signal manoeuvre being drilled into every student when cars of the future will do this for you. Most of the Highway Code will be redundant, as cars will be able to read signs and everything else we were taught to do.”

On the whole Legal Framework: The whole legal framework will need to be changed to take driverless cars into consideration. The Law Commission is currently in its last consultation phase. This takes into consideration every scenario relating to autonomous vehicles and developing an Automated Driving System (ADS – a system within a vehicle not the vehicle itself).”