‘Serious safety concerns’ expressed over introduction of automated system

08.25 | 27 October 2020 | | 2 comments

The Government has been urged to revise plans to permit the use of Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) because the technology will ‘put lives at risk’.

In August, the Government launched a call for evidence into use of ALKS – an automated system that is capable of taking control of a vehicle travelling at low speed on a motorway.

When activated, ALKS keeps a vehicle within its lane, controlling movements for extended periods of time without the driver needing to do anything. The driver must be ready and able to resume driving control when prompted by the vehicle.

However, Thatcham Research and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) warn that the technology has ‘significant performance limitations’.

In tests carried out by Thatcham Research, ALKS only met two of 12 key principles to guarantee safety – and it emerged that the system may not detect a pedestrian encroaching onto the road. Other concerns include how ALKS deals with debris on the road and motorway lane closures.

Thatcham and the ABI say ALKS should be classified as assisted driving technology – or the Government should wait until the technology is fully ready to allow safe automated driving.

Matthew Avery, Thatcham Research director of research, said: “The Government’s plan threatens road safety. 

“Motorists could feasibly watch television in their car from early next year because they believe their ALKS can be completely trusted to do the job of a human driver.

“But that’s not the reality. The limitations of the technology mean it should be classified as assisted driving because the driver must be engaged, ready to take over.”

James Dalton, ABI director, general insurance policy, said: “The insurance industry is 100% committed to supporting the development of automated vehicles, which have the potential to dramatically improve road safety and revolutionise our transport systems. 

“Vehicles equipped with an automated lane-keeping system are a great step towards developing automated vehicles.

“However, drivers must not be given unrealistic expectations about a system’s capability. Thatcham Research has identified some concerning scenarios where ALKS may not operate safely without the driver intervening. 

“We strongly believe the timings for the introduction of ALKS should be revised to prevent lives being put at risk.”

It is anticipated ALKS could be legalised in the UK from spring 2021.



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    The Govt approach on this is if it looks good on paper then back it. We see this panned out on Smart Motorways. Cars don’t brake down these days do they? People always prepare their cars before going on a motorway..don’t they? Drivers never get distracted on a Smart motorway do they? Well, if they do brake down then we detect this straight away don’t we? Then, they can get out of their cars and dodge the 70mph traffic and leap over the barrier can’t they? Or, run faster than 70mph to get to a refuge area…can’t they? Well, if they get shunted by a dosey driver its the driver’s fault and we can prosecute them. Yes…all good, sign off the billions….job done! Smart Motorways….Kill you smartly.

    Christine Hove, Manchester
    Agree (21) | Disagree (0)

    The government seems to have embraced a future vision of automated vehicle guidance systems and gives the impression that it believes it is a panacea of good things for road safety. With that backdrop, I doubt if common sense will prevail to rein in this excess. Unless motor insurers refuse point blank to shoulder the risk of course.

    Sophisticated “Conditional programming software” has been around in other engineering industries for at least 4 decades and things do go wrong sometimes and more frequently than many are willing to admit.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (14) | Disagree (2)

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