Data Analysis: Awareness campaign needed for drivers before accelerating introduction of AVs

White driverless car

Exclusive: A survey commissioned by Post found there are significant gaps in knowledge when it comes to self-driving vehicles, prompting calls for more education of drivers on the distinction between driver assistance and self driving.

This comes as the government announced a £40m competition to kick-start commercial self-driving services, including delivery vehicles and passenger shuttles.

The government hopes the funds will help accelerate the market for the technology, which it estimates could be worth £42bn to the UK economy by 2035 and create 38,000 new skilled jobs.

The competition is expected to “cement the UK’s reputation as a global leader in self-driving technology”. However, a survey conducted by Consumer Intelligence on behalf of Post highlighted significant gaps in consumer knowledge when it comes to self-driving vehicles.

The survey, which gained 1035 responses, found that while majority of respondents (61%) were aware there are different types of automation, 47% did not know how many levels of automation there actually are.

While advanced driver assistance systems have been part of new vehicles for over a decade now, 27% of respondents were not sure if they are allowed on UK roads with 7% believing they are illegal. In addition, 32% were under impression ADAS is classified as self-driving function, with 49% unsure whether it is a self-driving function or not.

Respondents were equally confused on classification of automated lane keeping system technology. ALKS technology sparked concerns previously when the in the government confirmed it was classed as a “self-driving function” with insurers warning that mischaracterisation of this technology could lead to “misuse” of the technology with potentially tragic consequences.

The survey found that 32% of respondents believe the technology is classified as self-driving, and 42% did not know whether it was a self-driving technology or not.

Gaps in knowledge

Ian Davies, partner at Kennedys, said: “What is clear from this research is that among the general public, there are currently significant gaps in knowledge when it comes to autonomous or ‘self-driving’ vehicles.

“The survey indicates that a major awareness campaign - particularly to educate drivers on the distinction between driver assistance systems and vehicles capable of self-driving, as well as the limitations of both - is required by government and motor manufacturers before public awareness is at the required level.

“All possible steps must be taken to ensure that drivers are fully informed at the point of sale or hire, with second-hand vehicles tracked by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, for example, so as to trigger a training requirement as and when that vehicle passes into new ownership.

“Given the lack of awareness indicated in the survey the government’s recent announcement of a £40m fund to accelerate the market for commercial AVs seems somewhat premature.

“The fear insurers may have when considering a survey such as this is that they may be left to pick up some very expensive pieces.”

Capabilities

Iain Hamilton, head of motor underwriting at Aviva UK General Insurance, said that while self driving technology has a “huge potential” to make roads safer “it is vital that drivers fully understand their responsibilities and the car’s capabilities”.

He said: “This research shows that more needs to be done to raise awareness of autonomous vehicles to help prepare motorists for the future of driving.

“The changes to the Highway Code are a welcome step forward but we would like to see further progress on driver education. We also need clarity on how information is shared between car manufacturers and insurers in the event of an incident, so that we can carry out our obligations as the insurer to establish liability and pay claims.”

Dougie Barnett, director of mid market and consumer risk management at Axa, urged the government to “work with the industry to ensure there is no public confusion surrounding AVs”.

He added there must be more emphasis on “educating the public on how to use and interact with these vehicles safely”.

He continued: “We would welcome a communications programme between insurers, the Department for Transport and road authorities to help provide the appropriate information and education for consumers, as well as guidance on the marketing and consumer communication provided by vehicle manufacturers.”

He added that while the technology has the potential to bring “widespread societal and economic value to the UK” in order for this to be rolled out at a scale, industry and government “must accurately and appropriately demonstrate the opportunities and benefits that the technology will create for people”.

Calum McPhail, strategy consultant at Keoghs, believed at this stage, there is a little understanding of the criteria to be met to properly describe functionality as self driving or automated as opposed to driver assistance.

He said: "The responsibility on the government and vehicle manufacturers should not be under-played – there needs to be crystal clear guidance on the self-driving features on any given vehicle including the intended circumstances of use and especially the requirement to take back control on demand.

“This will be a much bigger issue as the technology is still developing and evolving and could be foreseen as lessening in importance as and when we eventually get to the stage where full self-driving capability is common and vehicles are so advanced that transition to driver control just won’t be required. Until then, drivers have to be clear on the limitations of any self-driving functionality and especially on their responsibilities and availability to resume control.”

Unsurprising

Gerry Ross, head of commercial motor at Allianz said he was not surprised with the survey results, as “no self-driving cars are allowed on UK roads yet”. However, he believes “more work needs to be done” in the meantime to “help people understand the various degrees of automation and types of technology”.

With different manufactures using different terms to describe their technology, Ross said it would be useful if there was a “common language that would give clarity to car owners and drivers”.

He said: “At the moment, people hear about automated vehicles but also ALKS, as well as self-driving cars, super cruise control and autopilot capabilities; is it any wonder they’re confused?”

“Motor manufacturers, regulators and all those involved in the safe implementation of the evolution of the motor vehicle need to come up with a clearer, common language.

“It is our shared responsibility to support the education of the public as we move into a world where motor vehicles have the capability to drive themselves,” he concluded.

 
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