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Thatcham helps compile new guidelines for safe automated driving


Thatcham Research and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) are offering 12 guidelines designed to minimise bumps in the road on the journey towards fully automated driving. The guidelines come as Thatcham works with international regulators on new rules allowing Automated Driving Systems onto motorways.

The transition from assisted to automated driving, where sensors and systems play an increasing role in evolving what we think of today as the act of driving, is an area of potential risk Thatcham Research has highlighted previously. It is in this transition period, where functionality is limited and the driver is required to take back control in certain situations, that the risk of accidents may increase, warns Matthew Avery, director of research, Thatcham Research.

Avery said: “The UK Government’s prediction that fully automated vehicles will arrive on UK roads in 2021 is unlikely. However, early Automated Driving Systems designed only for motorway use could be available to consumers by then. To avoid introducing a new hazard, the vehicle needs to have an effective driver monitoring system to ensure safe handover of control between driver and vehicle, and that the driver is available to take back control when needed.

“The vehicle needs to play a guardian angel role. This is important because if the system can’t handle a scenario, it can bring the driver back into the loop. If the driver does not respond, the system should be able to assess the road conditions, just as a human would, and decide on the safest action to keep the car’s occupants and those around them safe.”

As soon as 2021, drivers can expect to share the road with cars operating in Automated mode. However, the first wave of Automated Driving Systems will offer limited functionality restricted to the motorway and require the driver to take back control at any point.

Avery added: “Governments and carmakers are keen to promote Automated Driving Systems for long term societal benefit. Decreases in road fatalities have plateaued over the past decade, and Automated Driving is rightly seen as a sea change for road safety. However, new and emerging technologies with inexperienced users, in an increasingly complex highways environment requires heightened levels of vigilance from regulators, vehicle manufacturers and users.”

The report can be downloaded at www.thatcham.org/what-we-do/automated-driving/.