Government warned over 2021 ‘automated driving’ plans

Thatcham Research and the ABI have warned lives could be put at risk by government plans to introduce automated driving on UK motorways in spring 2021

Automated driving demonstration

Government plans to introduce automated driving on UK motorways in spring 2021 should be revised as lives could be put at risk.

Thatcham Research and the Association of British Insurers say current Automated Lane Keeping System technology has significant performance limitations.

The tech meets only two of Thatcham Research’s 12 key principles to guarantee safety. It is simply not safe enough to be classified as ‘Automated Driving’.

The plans, which would legally allow a driver to take their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road, should be delayed and further work should be done with the automotive industry before the technology is introduced onto UK roads.

“The government’s plan threatens safety,” said Thatcham Research director of research Matthew Avery.

“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.

“That’s not the reality.”

Problem areas for the technology include debris in the carriageway, pedestrians on carriageways and red ‘X’ smart motorway lane closures.

Mr Avery is urging the government to instead classify the technology as ‘Assisted Driving’ which requires the driver to be fully engaged and ready to take over.

Today’s Assisted Driving sensors can only read up to 120 metres ahead. At motorway speeds, that gives a driver only four seconds to take back control in response to an incident.

Safety studies suggest drivers need more than 15 seconds (or 0.3 miles at motorway speeds) to re-engage and react to a hazard – way beyond the abilities of today’s technology.

The government plans are currently in consultation, which closes on 27 October 2020. Thatcham Research and the ABI will be making a joint submission to voice their concerns.


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Richard Aucock
Richard is director at Motoring Research. He has been with us since 2001, and has been a motoring journalist even longer. He won the IMCO Motoring Writer of the Future Award in 1996 and the acclaimed Sir William Lyons Award in 1998. Both awards are run by the Guild of Motoring Writers and Richard is currently chairman of the world's largest organisation for automotive media professionals. Richard is also a juror for World Car Awards and the UK juror for the AUTOBEST awards.


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