British self-driving car ambitions hit speed bumps at insurance companies

London — UK’s goal of becoming a leader in self-driving car adoption could backfire unless automakers and government regulators elaborate on the current limits of technology, insurers warn I will.

Insurers are a major player in the transition to autonomous driving, with some investing in technology that they believe can reduce accidents and deaths and save billions of dollars in payments.

But they are concerned that drivers can equate today’s low-level automation with fully autonomous vehicles, causing more accidents in the short term and permanently undermining public confidence in technology. doing.

David Williams, Managing Director of Underwriting at AXA Insurance, said: Insurance including 2020 car insurance.

“I truly believe that self-driving cars will make the world a safer place. I don’t want to derail it.”

Employees demonstrate autonomous driving system steering at the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class limousine near Immendingen
Daimler employees will demonstrate steering with the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class limousine drive pilot Level 3 autonomous driving system at its test center near Immendingen, Germany, on October 14, 2020. (Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters)

In what will be the first in the world, the UK is considering restricting the use of the lane keeping system (ALKS) on highways, perhaps even on highways up to 70 mph (113 km). I am. It also decides whether to describe them as “automated” systems in general.

It is that automated word that has sparked controversy and put the country at the center of the global debate about self-driving terminology at the sensitive moments of its evolution.

Technology is evolving rapidly and there is no consensus on how to deploy it or what to call some features. Regulations in the Americas, Europe and Asia lag far behind technological development, leaving the issue of accident liability unresolved.

ALKS uses sensors and software to keep the car in the lane and accelerate and brake without driver input. These are five-grade “Level 3” technologies in the automotive industry for fully autonomous “Level 5” driving. That is, it can operate under certain conditions, but requires driver intervention.

However, some experts say ALKS should be called “auxiliary driving technology” to avoid believing that potentially misleading consumers are distracting. I will.

The danger of drivers appearing to misunderstand the limits of technology is already a problem in the United States. In the United States, regulators are investigating about 20 crashes related to Tesla’s driver assistance tools such as the “autopilot” system (“level 2” technology). The driver’s constant attention is required.

Satcham Research in the UK tests cars with the technology behind ALKS to get out of the lane to avoid obstacles, see pedestrians coming out of the car by the side of the road, and read road signs. Said he found that he couldn’t. The car can warn the driver to regain control, but at high speeds it can cause a fatal delay.

“If this technology is really automated and you and I can do what we can, insurers will welcome it,” said Matthew Avery, Thatcham’s research director.

“But this could be confusing, lead to unnecessary conflicts and potentially injuries and deaths,” he added, if ALKS wasn’t sold correctly.

The UK Department of Transport said its main concern was public security and did not decide whether to allow the use of ALKS at high speeds or to call the technology “automation”. The decision is scheduled for later this year.

‘Problem child’

The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 1.35 million people die each year from road accidents worldwide.

Human error is estimated to cause about 90% of accidents and has attracted a great deal of interest from insurers in autonomous driving technology.

For example, AXA uses a UK research project to collect data, create insurance products for self-driving cars, and owns a stake in self-driving software startup Oxbotica.

Adopting new technologies can be a huge financial boost.

By 2035, the UK Department of Transportation predicts that approximately 40% of new UK vehicles will be self-driving and will create up to 38,000 new skilled jobs.

“The adoption of ALKS in the UK is essential for the UK to remain a world leader in automotive technology and to keep roads the safest roads on the planet,” said the Society of Motor Manufacturers of the UK Automotive Industry Lobby Group. Mike Hawes, CEO of and Traders Limited, said. Pointed out that the United Nations has approved ALKS for highway traffic traveling at low speeds of less than 37 miles per hour (60 kph).

Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz is a pioneer in self-driving technology, seeking global regulatory approval for its “level 3” drive pilot system.

In an email, Daimler called the system “conditional autonomous driving.”

“This is a paradigm change because the vehicle controls it,” says Daimler. The driver can surf the internet “look away from what’s happening on the road” and enjoy a “relaxing seat massage”.

Williams of AXA attended a drive pilot presentation to the UK Insurance Association last year.

“It’s absolutely great, but it’s driver assistance,” he said, and it’s not fully automated.

Neil Ingram, head of motor product management for insurer Directline, said it was important to clearly and accurately describe “level 3” technology.

“We knew for years that the road to full automation was tricky and Level 3 was always the child in question,” he said. “If the government decides to designate the ALKS system as automated, it becomes very realistic.”

With proper consumer education, ALKS “may help slow-moving traffic,” said Anthony Smith, CEO of Transport Focus, an independent UK consumer watchdog.

“But the word’automated’must be carefully tested in some focus groups and needs a better name,” he said.

Some in the automotive industry prefer a cautious approach.

Glen De Vos, Chief Technology Officer of Aptiv, a supplier of autonomous driving technology, said automakers need to be “very sensitive” when describing the functionality of the system.

Even if sold properly, some drivers abuse the technology, he said. That’s why Aptiv advocates using cameras and sensors in the car to maintain driver involvement.

“If the driver’s behavior doesn’t change, we need to lock the driver out of the system,” says DeVos.

Nick Carey, Paul Lienert, Tina Bellon