IAM rebranded for the driverless age

The Institute of Advanced Motorists has been rebranded and repositioned to better serve the drivers of tomorrow.

The newly-named IAM RoadSmart was launched in London yesterday, attended by bodyshop Magazine, with two main focus points – to argue the case for drivers who might still want to drive in a driverless era, and to raise the standard of drivers by encouraging a new dip in, dip out approach to its services.

The refresh is the result of more than a year of extensive research on the back of an online poll of more than 1,000 members, which drew up some surprising conclusions.

Chief among them was the inherent distrust in autonomous technology, with only 30% of respondents believing driverless cars are a good idea. More people thought either they were a bad idea (34%) or were unsure (31%).

The numbers were roughly the same when asked if driverless cars would ever become the norm on UK roads, with 43% saying no compared to only 30% who believed autonomous technology would eventually rule the highways. More than 42% of respondents also insisted they would never drive an autonomous vehicle.

Against that, 65% of motorists believe a human should always remain in control of the car.

However, IAM RoadSmart accepts that technology is fundamentally changing the driving experience and has set itself up to fight for the rights of those drivers who want to keep their hands on the wheel (87% of those questioned said driving should not be banned even when driverless cars are the majority.

Sarah Sillars, OBE, chief executive of IAM RoadSmart, said, ‘A large percentage of people will not be in any rush to give up driving when autonomous vehicles become widely available – they actually enjoy it. What we’re saying is, both are fine. Nobody quite knows when the technology is going to make a sizeable impact, but let’s help motorists who want to continue driving still be able to do that. We are desperately keen to see that people have that choice.

‘Intelligent cars will deliver a step change in road safety by targeting the human errors we make from time-to-time. At IAM RoadSmart we believe a well-trained driver and an ever-vigilant car is a win-win scenario for the future.’

In other words, to maximise the benefits of five-star cars and five-star roads, IAM RoadSmart believes you need five-star drivers.

And that thinking is the thrust behind the second aspect of its relaunch, which is intended to improve the confidence and competence of a greater number of motorists by making its services more user-friendly, and opening up its courses to members and non-members of all levels, not just those who want to become advanced drivers.

‘You no longer have to marry us,’ Sarah explained, ‘now you can just go out with us. There are so many people that use their cars or their bikes every single day. We’ve got to find ways of engaging with people that want just a little bit more help, support, guidance and encouragement in the areas that are relevant to them.

‘They might not want to be a complete advanced driver, but they may want to improve their skills in certain areas. Well that suits us, because if we’re helping people be more capable then we’re achieving what we set out to.’

Alongside a new pick and mix option for courses, IAM RoadSmart is also introducing a gamut of new modules based on a survey of more than 7,000 road users – most of which focus on the technical aspect of advanced driving, although some will deal with distraction in response to the ever-increasing software available in car.

Sarah continued, ‘We will be launching a suite of new products to support the needs of all road users. The advanced driving and riding tests will remain core to what we do and will continue to be seen as the ultimate achievement, but if you just want to get more confident driving in bad weather for instance, we can help with that too.’

Meanwhile, a new easy-to-navigate website has been launched to support the rebrand, with six distinct areas for simple navigation: courses (where visitors can select a course suitable to them); driving for work (tailored coaching for fleet drivers); member’s area; media support; driving tips; and a support area for local IAM RoadSmart groups.

Sarah concluded, ‘The new brand is about looking a lot less like an enforcer or regulator, and a lot more like the consumer’s friend. We’ve been around for 60 years, and we’re ready to be the voice of the driver and rider for the next 60 years.’