March 25, 2019

Call for more clarity on autonomy claims

Thatcham Research and the ABI (Association of British Insurers) are issuing an urgent call to manufacturers and legislators for greater clarity around the capability of vehicles sold with ‘autonomous’ technology.

The warning comes in the wake of growing reports of people crashing whilst over-relying on technology which is not yet designed to drive the vehicle independently.

The risks to UK drivers have been outlined in Thatcham’s new Assisted and Automated Driving Definition and Assessment paper, which has identified “dangerous grey areas” associated with some driver support technologies. These include ‘misleading’ names, how and when drivers should take back control of their vehicles, and systems which are designed to work in specific situations only.

Matthew Avery, head of research at Thatcham Research, commented: “We are starting to see real-life examples of the hazardous situations that occur when motorists expect the vehicle to drive and function on its own. Specifically, where the technology is taking ownership of more and more of the driving task, but the motorist may not be sufficiently aware that they are still required to take back control in problematic circumstances. Fully automated vehicles that can own the driving task from A to B, with no need for driver involvement whatsoever, won’t be available for many years to come. Until then, drivers remain criminally liable for the safe use of their vehicles and as such, the capability of current road vehicle technologies must not be oversold.”


To provide guidance to manufacturers and legislators, Thatcham Research has drawn up a list of ten key criteria that every assisted vehicle must have. These recommendations represent best practice to promote safety on the roads as assisted vehicles become more commonplace.

James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the ABI, said: “Insurers are major supporters of efforts to get assisted and autonomous vehicles onto the UK’s roads. Given the part human error plays in the overwhelming majority of accidents, these technologies have the potential to dramatically improve road safety. However, we are a long way from fully autonomous vehicles and in the meantime, it remains crucial that drivers are alert and ready to take back full control at a moment’s notice.”