Why ‘self’ is a dirty word for motor insurers

posted in: General News, Self Drive

We don’t have self-driving vans for hire (yet). But when we do, we may have to think carefully about the ‘Self Drive’ part of our name.
 
‘Autopilot’. It has a ring of trust to it, doesn’t it? It suggests being able to sit back and read the news, watch a movie or enjoy a coffee while the vehicle does all the driving for you. That’s what’s concerning motor insurers right now, as they claim that marketing descriptions of vehicles containing automatic elements need to change.
 
Assisted vs automated
 
The problem is those words ‘auto’ or ‘self’. Thatcham Research has conducted safety tests for the Association of British Insurers and, as the BBC reports, it has found that words such as ‘autopilot’ ‘self-driving’ and ‘autonomous’ give drivers a false sense of security that their vehicle can handle any situation itself.
 

 
The truth is, it can’t. At present there are no vehicles on UK roads capable of driving themselves in all circumstances.
 
What there are, however, are assisted vehicles. High end cars like the latest Tesla can automatically keep up with traffic and switch lanes on the motorway. And even a high spec Ford Focus will come with parking assist. But there are two main problems with the current state of the technology: first, some vehicles can do some things automatically, but there’s no consistency from vehicle to vehicle. And secondly, drivers become over-reliant on systems that simply aren’t good enough (yet) to be relied upon – which is why the technology sections of the media regularly carry images of crumpled Google cars, Teslas and the like.
 
“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 the BBC.
 
“We want it very clear. Either you are driving – assisted – or you’re not driving – automated.”
 
The need for clarity
 
We are some way off the point where our rental vans will come with automated driving as standard, but it is coming. Inevitably what starts in the high end and prestige market filters down to every vehicle in time.
 
By the time it does, we’re hopeful that understanding of automation and its level of capability will have achieved some sort of parity. In the meantime, and just to be absolutely clear, the ‘Self Drive’ in TJS Self Drive still means that whenever you rent a van with TJS, you’ll be the one driving it.
 
 
*video courtesy of Thatcham Research. See more videos from Thatcham Research on YouTube.