Kiwi insurer rep highlights driverless car risks
With fully autonomous cars expected to be on UK roads by 2025, a New Zealander who works for a UK insurer representative body has voiced his concerns on what happens in the interim period, citing the term ‘driverless’ as ‘misleading’ and ‘dangerous’.
James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the Association of British Insurers (ABI), has drawn attention to the many uncertainties arising during the period between the proposed rollouts of semi-autonomous cars in 2018 and fully autonomous cars in 2025.
“The growth of features, such as automatic braking and lane assistance systems, may give drivers a false sense of security that they can relax while their car looks after them. But unless a vehicle is fully automated and able to respond appropriately in an emergency, drivers still have to be ready to take back control at a moment’s notice,” Dalton, a former policy adviser at the Ministry of Economic Development and lawyer at the Treasury Solicitors Department, said.
From 2021, the car industry and legislators anticipate that entire motorway journeys will be possible with a car in fully autonomous mode, without any input from the driver, while from 2025 the expectation is that cars will do entire journeys with the driver’s only action being to set the destination, autocar.co.uk reported.
Dalton, who joined the ABI in 2007, added there were huge implications for the insurance industry, which was built around the expectation of there being car accidents.
“Automated driving will send shockwaves through many industries. Motor manufacturers are facing threats to their own business model from technology giants such as Google and Apple and need to move fast to keep up.”
However he said there would always be a need for insurance.
“Insurance is an industry which is used to adapting as new risks emerge and others fade.
“The potential prize here is a massive reduction in road accidents, leading to fewer people being killed and injured on our roads.
“Insurers would love to see that become a reality and they are doing whatever they can to help support advances in automated vehicles.”
Dalton said he also believed a large number of drivers would want to remain in control for the vast majority of their journeys.
“When I fly home to New Zealand I expect there to be pilots in the cockpit of the plane who are fully trained to fly it,” he told autocar.co.uk.
“I know that the auto-pilot will do the majority of the flying, but I expect the pilots to take over control of the plane should something go wrong.
“I think most consumers take a similar view with vehicles. Let’s also not forget that many people actually enjoy driving.”
In the short-term future however, Dalton said he was personally very concerned about the dangers posed by autonomous cars.
“In my personal view, the use of the term driverless cars is not only misleading but potentially dangerous.
“At least until the very long-term, a car is going to require a trained, competent and sober driver to oversee its operation, even if it is operating autonomously.”
He added: “And, of course, we all know from Google’s recent experience in Mountain View, California that autonomous cars can crash.”