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Government urged to take caution in paving the way for Automated Driving

Press release   •   Apr 28, 2021 00:00 BST

ALKS technology may not detect a pedestrian encroaching onto a carriage way (see video below)

Responding to the UK Government’s announcement today (28 April 2021) around paving the way for Automated Driving, Thatcham Research and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) are urging caution.

“There is still a lot of work needed by both legislators and the automotive industry before any vehicle can be classed as automated and allowed safely on to the UK roads,” comments Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research.

“Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) as currently proposed by the Government are not automated. They are assisted driving systems as they rely on the driver to take back control.

“Aside from the lack of technical capabilities, by calling ALKS automated our concern also is that the UK Government is contributing to the confusion and frequent misuse of assisted driving systems that have unfortunately already led to many tragic deaths.

“A widespread and effective ongoing communications campaign led by the automotive industry and supported by insurers and safety organisations is essential if we are going to address current and future misconceptions and misuse.”

Thatcham Research and the ABI believe there are four non-negotiable criteria that need to be met before ALKS can be classified as automated:

  • The vehicle must have the capability, and be allowed through legislation, to safely change lanes to avoid an incident
  • The vehicle must have the capability to find a “safe harbour” at the side of the road and not stop in a “live” lane
  • The systems on the vehicle must be able to recognise UK road signs and this needs to be assured by an independent organisation
  • Data must be made available remotely through a neutral server for any incident to verify who was “in charge” at the time of the incident – the driver or the vehicle.

“We have engaged closely with the UK Government around their Call for Evidence on ALKS,” continues Matthew Avery, “and look forward to ensuring that future technologies such as ALKS can be adopted safely to reduce road casualties.”

Mark Shepherd, Assistant Director, Head of General Insurance Policy, Association of British Insurers, said:

“While the insurance industry fully supports the development towards more automated vehicles, drivers must not be given unrealistic expectations about a system’s capability. It is vital that Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS), which rely on the driver to take back control, are not classed as automated, but as assisted systems. By keeping this distinction clear we can help ensure that the rules around ALKS are appropriate and put driver and passenger safety first.

“Thatcham Research has identified some concerning scenarios where ALKS may not operate safely without the driver intervening. These need to be addressed in the consultation.”

WATCH: Automated Lane Keeping Systems are not ready for all driving scenarios

Thatcham Research is the independent voice of automotive safety, security & repair, advising motorists, insurers and vehicle manufacturers to help reduce accident frequency, severity and costs and to realise the vision of ‘Safer cars, fewer crashes’, while driving standards in vehicle security.

As well as its world leading crash and track research, Thatcham Research develops repair methods amongst a number of other products and services within the collision repair industry for insurers, motor manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and suppliers.

In addition, Thatcham Research has administered the Association of British Insurer’s (ABI) Group Rating system for the past 50 years. Group Rating is an advisory system intended to provide insurers with the relative risk of private cars and light commercial vehicles.

A founder member of the international Research Council for Automobile Repairs (RCAR), Thatcham Research has also been a member of the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) since 2004.