The ABI and Thatcham warn against automated driving plans

The Association of British Insurers and Thatcham have warned of the dangers automated lane keeping systems on UK roads

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TWO of the UK’s biggest motoring organisations have thrown their weight behind a push to slow down the UK’s switch to using autonomous vehicles on UK roads.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) and Thatcham Research have urged the UK Government to rethink its plans to introduce Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) on the UK’s roads. If the plans continue as planned, the systems could be allowed as early as 2021.

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ABI and Thatcham both claim that ALKS should be further investigated to ensure that the safety of all road users is fully understood before they are introduced. As it is, concerns have been raised that ALKS do not ‘replicate what a competent and engaged human driver can do’, with Thatcham’s research highlighting that in some circumstances ALKS may not detect a pedestrian who is encroaching on the roadway.

Thatcham also found that the automated lane keeping systems could only meet two out of the twelve principles required to guarantee safety, going on to say they cannot, therefore, be classed as ‘automated driving’, instead it claims the tech should be classed as ‘assisted driving’.

The issue for both Thatcham and the ABI is that when a system is classed as being automated, the driver of the vehicle is given the impression that they can completely disengage from the act of controlling the vehicle. In this way, the driver would not be focused on the road ahead and as a result, may not see potential hazards.

The ABI and Thatcham claim that things like debris on the road, pedestrians encroaching on the highway, and closed motorway lanes are all factors that the automated system could miss. They are dangers though that an attentive and alert driver should pick up on. As a result of this, the ABI and Thatcham are both stating that should the technology be rolled out in the manner it is being at the moment, it could have a detrimental effect on road safety.

Speaking of the new technology, Matthew Avery, Thatcham Research Director of Research, said:

“The Government’s plan threatens road safety … Motorists could feasibly watch television in their car from early next year because they believe their Automated Lane Keeping System can be completely trusted to do the job of a human driver.

“But that’s not the reality. The limitations of the technology mean it should be classified as ‘Assisted Driving’ because the driver must be engaged, ready to take over.

“Our conclusion is Automated Lane Keeping System technology is not safe enough to be classified as Automated. We believe it should be regarded as Assisted technology because the driver needs to remain alert.

“The Government’s proposed timeline for the introduction of Automated technology must be revised. It simply isn’t safe enough and its introduction will put UK motorists’ lives at risk.” He concluded.

Thatcham Research and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) will make a joint submission to the Government’s Automated Lane Keeping System consultation before it closes to formally present their concerns around safety and liability.