Automated Driving could be a reality on UK motorways from Spring 2021 - but road safety still a concern

Thatcham Research and the Association of British Insurer’s have launched a campaign to classify Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) as assisted driving technology.

The motoring research group has identified various scenarios where classifying this technology as ‘automated driving’ would be unsafe and could endanger lives. Both the functionality and regulations in which ALKS operates means that it is no substitute for an engaged and competent human driver.

The classification is significant because if a motorist is driving an automated vehicle, they can legally take their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road. Thatcham Research has safety concerns about this classification as ALKS are largely based on today’s Assisted Driving technology.

Matthew Avery, Thatcham Research Director of Research explained: “Motorists could feasibly watch television in their car from early next year because they believe their Automated Lane Keeping System 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, says: “The insurance industry is 100 per cent 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.”