What’s in a word? | Breakthrough Funding

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

What’s in a word?

The insurance industry is warning car manufacturers to spell out the reality of autonomous features

Imagine you’ve been unfortunate enough to have a car accident. You’re uninjured, but your car is a wreck. You call the insurance company and confidently inform them that it wasn’t your fault, because the autonomous driving feature you were relying on to safely pilot the car failed. At which point, the insurance company informs you that said feature wasn’t autonomous at all and you’re to blame for not being in control of the car.

Bit of a nightmare, right? That’s the sort of situation that is giving the insurance industry bad dreams, if their latest comments are any guide. The Association of British Insurers has produced a report that found a disconnect between motorists’ perception of their cars’ self-driving abilities and the reality – with the word ‘autonomous’ causing most of the confusion.

Some manufacturers, such as Tesla, make vehicles with some features that partially automate the driving process, but there are no fully self-driving cars on the UK’s roads. However, safety testing centre Thatcham Research says that car manufacturers shouldn’t use the word ‘autonomous’ in their marketing, because it’s misleading drivers about how much responsibility they still have to control the car.

Features such as keeping a car in its lane and staying a safe distance from the vehicle in front are only partially automated; tests have shown that these features don’t always work when confronted with an unexpected situation. Thatcham Research claims that terms such as ‘ProPilot’ and ‘AutoPilot’ could lead motorists to believe they can just sit back and leave the driving to the car, which is not the case at all.

There are lots of opportunities to be grasped as the self-driving movement gathers momentum, but the challenges keep coming too. Are you working on autonomous driving technology that could improve safety? Let us know on 0800 772 0800.

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