Autonomous and Driverless Cars Case Study

In this case study we focus on the latest technology and policy developments in the field of autonomous and driverless cars

The fully autonomous (driverless) car is on its way, with today’s new vehicles having increasing amounts of system automation and ability.

It must be recognised that there will be no ‘Big Bang’ but rather an introduction of increasing levels of automation over a number of years.

Our engineers face a huge challenge in the step change required to create highly, and then fully, autonomous vehicles; this creates uncertainty about the timing of their availability.

There are societal questions that need to be addressed before highly and fully automated cars are both accepted and legally able to be positioned on our roads; this will include having the right regulatory framework in place.

The modernisation of our current car fleet will take a long time. Currently it is estimated to take 10 years to get a new technology on to the production line, with a further ten to fifteen years to get the majority of the UK fleet changed.

Therefore the earliest we could predict a near 100% highly automated UK fleet is by 2040, and a fully autonomous UK fleet by 2050. Removing the drivers from our vehicles should ultimately mean there are less crashes on our roads, as data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that 95% of all crashes occur due to driver error.

But before our fleet changes, the impacts on risk and the provision of insurance products need to be addressed. Engineers believe that there will be a shift away from individual driver insurance towards insurance for the vehicle, ie towards product liability insurance. In the transition, risk-accurate information about the insured vehicle will become more important.

For the moment, motor insurance remains essential as long as the driver is required to be in control.

Key recommendations

  • The Transport Systems Catapult conduct a public consultation, bringing together a working group that includes industry, legislators, regulators and members of the general public. This group should look at how we can integrate and implement new regulatory regimes.
  • All car dealerships and garages must work with the vehicle manufacturers to ensure that they can provide adequate information, and give the required training, to any new purchaser of a vehicle. This practice has already been adopted by BMW.
  • The Department for Transport needs to address the safety issues of autonomous vehicles, looking at how they can be integrated onto our road network with appropriate road signage and markings in place or updated.

Related links

Read the press release about the Case Study
Visit Policy & Press to find out more about our key engineering themes.


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