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13 June 2018

Car drivers misled and endangered by words like ‘autonomous’

First publishedon www.ITSInternational.com
Carmakers using the word ‘autonomous’ are lulling UK drivers into a false sense of security, says a new report. The warning from Thatcham Research and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) follows reports of drivers crashing because they are over-reliant on technology that is not fully autonomous.  

The partnership is now calling for manufacturers and legislators to clarify the capability of vehicles sold with technology that does some driving on behalf of motorists.

Thatcham’s latest paper, Assisted and Automated Driving Definition and Assessment, has identified dangerous areas associated with some driver support technologies. These include misleading names such as Autopilot and ProPilot, which imply a level of autonomy that is currently unavailable. The document also explains how and when drivers should take back control of their vehicles.

Matthew Avery, head of research at Thatcham, says fully-autonomous vehicles – which do not require driver intervention - will not be available for many years. “Until then, drivers remain criminally liable for the safe use of their cars and, as such, the capability of current road vehicle technologies must not be oversold,” he adds.

Thatcham stresses the need for absolute clarity on how these technologies are designed to work and has created a list of 10 key criteria that every assisted vehicle must meet for it to become ‘automated’. These include giving adequate notice to drivers in situations where they need to take back control. In addition, vehicles must be able to arrive at an appropriate ‘safe stop’ if they are unable to continue, or if the driver fails to intervene.

James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at ABI, says: “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.”

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