Insurers indicate dangers of automated systems

British Insurers have today highlighted the potential dangers of ‘autonomous ambiguity’, as vehicles with different levels of autonomy, or driverless technology, increasingly become a feature of UK roads.

With important and wide-reaching changes being defined by international regulators on what assisted and automated systems can and can’t do, the Automated Driving Insurer Group (ADIG), led by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) in collaboration with Thatcham Research, has released a white paper setting out the latest position of UK insurers.

The ‘Regulating Automated Driving’ paper is set to reveal that UK insurers, including AXA, Admiral, Ageas, Allianz, Aviva, Co-operative Insurance, Covea, Direct Line Group, esure, LV, RSA, Zurich and the Lloyd’s Market, strongly support vehicle automation in the firm belief that it will deliver a significant reduction in accidents. However, there are real concerns about driver confusion caused by so-called intermediate automated systems. Such systems offer significant self-driving capability but require the driver to take back control of the vehicle in certain circumstances.

Peter Shaw, Thatcham Research CEO, comments, ‘Vehicles with intermediate systems that offer assisted driving still require immediate driver intervention if the car cannot deal with a situation. 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.’

The paper suggests that a clear distinction between assisted and automated systems should be made by international regulators considering design standards for these vehicles. For example, a vehicle should be clearly identified and marketed as automated only when the driver can safely disengage in the knowledge that the car has sufficient capabilities to deal with virtually all situations on the road.

‘The insurance industry strongly supports the development of automated driving technology – which we see as the logical conclusion to work over several decades to reduce the numbers of people killed or seriously injured on the roads,’ comments James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the ABI. ‘However, we know all too well from conventional vehicles that drivers often misunderstand what their vehicles can and can’t do. Therefore, consistent standards are needed so that those taking up automated driving technology can do so with confidence.’