Allianz and Thatcham Research react to automated driving changes in The Highway Code

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The UK government’s changes to The Highway Code, designed to ensure that automated driving technology is introduced safely, have been cautiously welcomed by insurers and motor insurance industry research organisations.

Following a broadly supportive consultation, the government is amending The Highway Code to explain that drivers must be ready to resume control of vehicles from automated driving systems and introduce an amendment to current regulations to allow them to view content that’s not related to driving on built-in display screens.

Ian Kershaw, head of motor claims at Allianz Commercial, commented: “While we welcome progress towards self-driving cars, we need to be cautious about giving a distorted view of what using a self-driving car will actually be like. Road safety is paramount, and so is understanding the rules about when drivers can take their attention off the road. This will be allowed only under certain precise circumstances.”

“That is why, as an industry, we must continue to educate the public about automated and self-driving vehicles. We also need to gain access to vehicle data so that when accidents happen, we know what caused them. This will not only help establish liability, it will be crucial in rolling out self-driving technology as safely as possible.”

Thatcham Research, which consulted with the Law Commission on its recent report focused on the safe adoption of automated driving, echoed these comments.

Matthew Avery, chief research strategy officer at Thatcham Research said: “This is another notable landmark on our journey towards safe automated driving in the UK. Education is a key enabler of safe adoption, and as such we welcome the announcement’s focus on ensuring that drivers understand their legal obligations behind the wheel of any vehicle described as having ‘self-driving capability’.”

Avery continued: “Although automation will ultimately make our roads safer, accidents will still occur. Therefore, data must be recorded that shows who was in control at the time of a collision, however minor, and this data must be openly accessible to all stakeholders, not only the carmakers.”

“The question of who pays when an automated vehicle crashes remains unclear. Carmakers and insurers will work together to handle claims where the vehicle is proven to be in self-driving mode and while Mercedes recently announced that it will accept liability when it’s ‘Drive Pilot’ automated system is engaged, the provision of data will be vital to making sense of collisions and ensuring that legal wrangling does not put a brake on adoption.”

Avery added: “As a clear communication to the consumer, the announcement’s focus on the driver’s legal responsibilities is important, especially when it comes to taking back control from the system. This is an area of risk and it’s important that drivers are aware that they must remain engaged and be ready to resume the driving task at any time.”

“We are also pleased to see that the proposed changes will not permit mobile phone use, and instead only allow use of the vehicle’s infotainment system—which means the self-driving system can issue a warning as required and bring the driver back into the loop promptly.”

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Mark Dugdale is the editor of Claims Media. Mark welcomes articles, letters or feedback from readers and can be reached via mark.dugdale@barkerbrooks.co.uk