The hands off approach to driving - are we ready?

Drivers are soon set to be allowed to take their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road on motorways in the UK, the government has just announced. It’s the long awaited first move to autonomous driving that all the major car firms have been working on for years.

The ground-breaking plans will allow hands free driving in cars fitted with lane keeping technology on traffic-filled motorways at speeds up to 37 mph.

The Department of Transport are now consulting on the exact rules needed to enable what they describe as “traffic jam chauffeur technology” to be brought in, including updates to the Highway Code to ensure autonomous systems are used safely.

They will also require car makers to meet new safety requirements for the vehicles to be legally registered with Type Approval that shows the car is capable of self driving.

But there are some big concerns about the safety and legal issues surrounding the systems. Insurers have given the Government proposals a cautious welcome but warned against using words like ’self driving’ to describe the Automatic Lane Keep System, because drivers might misinterpret the system as full automation and pay less attention, leading to accidents.

Mark Shepherd of the Association of British Insurers said: “While the insurance industry fully supports the development towards more automated vehicles, drivers must not be given unrealistic expectations about a system’s capabilities; these are not fully automated but assisted systems.”

Road safety experts from the insurance industry research centre in Thatcham said that the automatic system is not yet fit for purpose, and that there were liability and legal challenges to be addressed. They also claimed that an ALKS can fail to see debris in the road, which can lead to potential accidents.

Several high-end cars from makers such and Tesla, Audi and Mercedes already have the technology fitted to vehicles which are currently on British roads. However the full functionality won’t be ‘switched on’ until the law is clarified and the owner accepts responsibility.

You can read more motoring advice from Ginny Buckley on the website:

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