Automotive insurance agencies are starting to warn carmakers against the use of the word “autonomous” in their marketing and vehicle features, according to a report by the Association of British Insurers.
The report claims that some new vehicles that have advanced driver-assist features are being marketed and described in ways that could convince motorists that they have self-driving cars when that’s not the case.
While there aren’t any full autonomous passenger cars driving around the roads just yet, there is auto manufacturers like Tesla, BMW and Nissan that are offering semi-autonomous driving features for its customers. These advanced driver-assist features can do things like keeping the car within its lane, controlling its speed, keeping a safe following distance, and even braking to avoid a collision.
In the report, the company Thatcham Research, which conducts safety tests for the motor insurers, says the manufacturers need to be far clearer about the difference between semi-autonomous and autonomous cars. The company cites manufacturers feature names like “Autopilot” and “ProPilot” that could lead consumers to believe that their vehicle is self-driving under all circumstances.
“There’s a problem with the manufacturers trying to introduce technology and consumers not being ready for it, not being sure if it’s automated or ‘Do I need to keep watching?'” Matthew Avery, of Thatcham Research told BBC. “We want it very clear. Either you are driving – assisted – or you’re not driving – automated.”
Meanwhile, a Tesla spokeswoman told BBC that when using Autopilot, drivers are reminded to keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of the vehicle at all times.
“Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents and the issues described by Thatcham won’t be a problem for drivers using Autopilot correctly,” the spokeswoman told BBC.
According to a BBC article, Thatcham Research, which works for the Association of British Insurers, is launching a testing programme to assess assisted-driving systems.
“Manufacturers must be responsible in how they describe and name what their vehicles can do, and the insurance industry is ready to hold them to account on this,” James Dalton, from the ABI told BBC.
The insurers are also concerned about manufacturers’ plans to introduce cars with level-three automation, where the driver can take their hands off the wheel for long periods. They would like the carmakers to skip this step and wait until they are ready to go straight to level four, where the vehicle is fully automated.
Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued its preliminary report for the investigation of the fatal Tesla crash that killed one and injured another. The crash on March 23, 2018, occurred on U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif.
The report said that performance data that was downloaded from the Tesla, a 2017 Model X P100D SUV, indicates the driver had been using traffic-aware cruise control and autosteer lane-keeping assistance, which are advanced driver assistance features that Tesla refers to as autopilot.
In the 18 minutes and 55 seconds prior to impact, the Tesla provided two visual alerts and one auditory alert for the driver to place his hands on the steering wheel. The alerts were made more than 15 minutes before the crash.
To read the full story, go here.