The use of the word autonomous in car marketing materials is lulling drivers into a false sense of security, it has been claimed.
In a joint press release, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and Thatcham Research have made an ‘urgent call’ for vehicle manufacturers and legislators to provide greater clarity around the capability of vehicles sold with technology that does ‘more and more driving’ on behalf of motorists.
Thatcham Research says the call comes in the wake of growing reports of people crashing while over-relying on technology which is not yet designed to drive the car independently.
The ‘risks to UK drivers’ are outlined in a new paper which identifies ‘dangerous grey areas’ associated with some driver support technologies – and ‘misleading names’ like Autopilot and ProPilot, given to systems by manufacturers.
To further highlight the issue to the motoring public, Thatcham Research has produced a new video (featured) which demonstrates what can happen when a driver becomes convinced that a vehicle is capable of driving autonomously.
The research centre, which assists Euro NCAP with its vehicle safety testing programme, has also announced a new testing regime to assess functionality of driver assistance systems; with misleading names and potentially dangerous functionality to be marked down.
Matthew Avery, head of research at Thatcham Research, said: “We are starting to see real-life examples of the hazardous situations that occur when motorists expect the car to drive and function on its own.
“Specifically, where the technology is taking ownership of more and more of the driving task, but the motorist may not be sufficiently aware that they are still required to take back control in problematic circumstances.
“Fully automated vehicles that can own the driving task from A to B, with no need for driver involvement whatsoever, won’t be available for many years to come.
“Until then, drivers remain criminally liable for the safe use of their cars and as such, the capability of current road vehicle technologies must not be oversold.”
James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the ABI, said: “Insurers are major supporters of efforts to get assisted and autonomous vehicles onto the UK’s roads.
“However, we are a long way from fully autonomous cars which will be able to look after all parts of a journey and in the meantime it remains crucial that all drivers are alert and ready to take back full control at a moment’s notice.
“Manufacturers must be responsible in how they describe and name what their vehicles can do, and the insurance industry is ready to hold them to account on this.”
To provide further guidance to carmakers and legislators, Thatcham Research has drawn up a list of 10 key criteria that every ‘Assisted’ vehicle must have, complementing 10 criteria laid out in 2017 which a car must meet before it can be called ‘Automated’.
Matthew Avery added: “Names like Autopilot or ProPilot are deeply unhelpful, as they infer the car can do a lot more than it can. Absolute clarity is needed, to help drivers understand the when and how these technologies are designed to work and that they should always remain engaged in the driving task.”