It looks like what the automated driving issue needs is a solid white line.
Recently we told you about how the Association of British Insurers and Thatcham Research are slamming the brakes on vehicle manufacturers’ use of the word “autonomous” for cars that in fact would still need driver intervention one way or another at some point. Thatcham Research’s Matthew Avery believes fully automated vehicles won’t be available for many years to come.
Now a new report, published by AXA Insurance and UK law firm Burges Salmon as part of the VENTURER project, is calling for better consumer understanding of these much-talked-about vehicles – urging legislators to define “driverless” technology, in particular SAE Level 3, or conditional automation, as it is seen as the most potentially confusing.
“The UK government does not consider that such vehicles will be ‘automated vehicles’ under the AEV Bill,” reads the paper. “The analysis in this report and from the VENTURER project demonstrates that, from a safety, insurance, and legal liability point of view, the policy position around use of automated driving features in Level 3 vehicles raises important issues.
“To date, commercially available vehicles are not intended to operate beyond Level 2 (advanced driver assistance). However, the industry is now starting to roll out Level 3 capable features and models.”
The recommendation is for the government to consult and “be as clear as possible with industry on the regulatory policy pathway” when it comes to the use and adoption of vehicles labelled as SAE Level 3.
According to the paper, which examined different scenarios and their corresponding legal and insurance issues, the distinction between levels of automated driving is not straightforward. It also highlighted the role of the human driver.
“After three years of the VENTURER project we have made leaps and bounds in terms of driverless technology and legislation,” commented AXA UK technical director David Williams when the paper was released. “However, our final report reminds us that we must not forget the human element of CAVs (connected and autonomous vehicles).
“Owners need to know what the car is capable of as well as what they are legally allowed to do when behind the wheel, which is still yet to be defined.”
Aside from civil liability, the report also looked at criminal law considerations.
Burges Salmon transport sector head Chris Jackson sees legal and insurance frameworks as a key enabler for the development and deployment of market-ready CAVs.
“Placing user and public certainty, experience, and safety at the heart of legal and insurance reforms is essential to building user trust and acceptance,” he explained. “It is only by continuing to demonstrate this commitment at each stage of the development process that driverless vehicles will be able to fulfil their potential to deliver safer and more efficient transport at scale.”