Fleets warned to explain limits of partial automation
Fleets must ensure drivers know the limitations of assisted driving technologies before the benefits to road safety are realised, Thatcham Research has warned.
The organisation’s head of research, Matthew Avery, said it was working with the car insurance industry to ensure carmakers and regulators make a clear distinction between assisted vehicles, which still require drivers to have control, and fully automated models.
As the forthcoming Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill passes through Parliament, it has published a white paper setting out 10 criteria which must be present to ensure a vehicle can be termed as ‘automated’, in order to prevent driver confusion over their own level of responsibility behind the wheel.
But Avery warned that fleets need to get involved too, to make sure that drivers know what vehicles can and can’t do: “I think the thing [fleets] can really provide support with is education to the driver to say: ‘These systems are good. These systems are going to make driving more comfortable, certainly for long-distance fleet drivers on the motorway. You should be using this technology, it’s good, it makes you safer. However, you are still the backstop. Don’t start compromising your safety, thinking, ‘Well, it’s actually safe for me to use my mobile phone here as the car is driving for me so I’ll just check that text message.’
“There has to be education to say, “No, it’s still illegal, you’re still liable, the law hasn’t changed there at all. These systems are there to support you, but you ultimately as the driver are still responsible.’”
He also called on fleets to have their say with government to make sure the distinction between assisted and automated driving is clear, adding: “The Government is consulting on the Automated and Electric Vehicle Bill on the different levels of automation – feeding into the Centre for Connected and Automated Vehicles (CCAV) about their use on fleets.
“We think fleets should be engaged in the process – because fleets are an important stakeholder. They should encompass and embrace the technology, they should be telling their drivers, “It’s good, use it – but use with respect and keep it safe.’”