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  • Autonomous technology and connected cars set to improve the roads

    connected carsWith up to 90% of road accidents being caused by driver error an increase in autonomous technology shows huge potential for reducing accidents as we gradually move closer towards driverless cars. With drunk driving, distracted drivers, and failure to remain in one lane being the main causes of accidents there is the potential for many accidents and collisions to be wiped out through autonomous technology and connected cars.

    Over the years vehicles have become much heavier due to the needs of meeting rigorous crash-test standards. However, with the potential of reduced crashes as a result of autonomous technology the possibility of alternative lighter material usage becomes a distinct likelihood. The ongoing pressure of fuel economy and reduced carbon footprint will help to press forward this change towards different grades of steel, aluminium, plastics and carbon fibre. However, it will be important to consider ease of repair due to the knock-on impact of fleet insurance premiums.

    Government are becoming more engaged in autonomous technology

    The government are becoming more engaged in these developments due to the potential impact on safety, congestion, and energy consumption. As a result, achieving a five‐star Euro NCAP rating on a vehicle already requires at least one driver assistance function to be integrated into the build and pedestrian safety systems will be part of that with autonomous braking for cyclists looking to be included into the NCAP five-star ratings by 2018.

    A study by Euro NCAP highlighted how the use of autonomous emergency braking reduces low‐speed rear end crashes by as much as 38%. As this is already recognised by insurance ratings, it’s likely to push uptake further and proven cost savings such as this will help to push car fleets to commit additional expenditure on such technologies.

    In an additional bid to improve road safety, from 2018 all new cars in Europe will feature eCall which sends data about the accident location direct to the emergency services. Such a connected car will aim to monitor driver behaviour and prevent collisions, as well as reducing response times to incidents and therefore beneficially cutting claims costs as well as potentially saving lives. Such systems could also be developed to notify your insurer immediately, bringing down the cost of third party claims resulting from delays in insurer notification. 

    Connectivity used in the right way to increase safety

    As vehicles begin to Increase their levels of connectivity they are able to communicate with their surrounding environment, including the infrastructure and other vehicles. Connecting with each of these external forces will help to provide valuable information for the driver about road, traffic, and weather conditions, and on routing options. However, with connected cars comes the issue of distracted driving. As more accidents are now caused by distracted driving than any other source this is a significant issue which needs consideration with the potential of leaving your fleet open to potentially heavy insurance claims. The increase in usage of handheld smartphones only goes to increase this problem, and has led to the inherent need to target driver distraction from smartphones via inbuilt software which can lock the phone if it is being used by the driver.

    Driverless cars on schedule to improve the roads

    The Department of Transport launched a nationwide consultation on driverless cars on July 11th which was set to seek views on how car insurance will be changed and what the future Highway Code would look like.

    For the fully fledged driverless cars, due to hit the roads in 2018 and available to the masses in an industry worth £900bn by 2025, there are a number of challenges to overcome allowing for a driver to be fully removed from the situation. However, it is perhaps more overcoming human concern in this area and fully perfecting the technology that is the real challenge. In a recent study undertaken by Schoettle and Sivak they found that in the UK, as with the rest of the world, we are more trusting of a level 3 driverless car where you have some control and can intervene if necessary, than a level 4 fully automated driverless car.

    The biggest worry of driverless cars is the safety consequences of an equipment failure, with 44.8% of people saying they were very concerned and 36.8% saying they were moderately concerned. In addition to this there are also concerns in dealing with the unexpected, with 38.1% saying they were very concerned and 34% saying they were moderately concerned. There are clearly challenges to overcome such as lack of human interpretation, differences in weather and terrain, detecting when failure of systems have occurred and cybersecurity.

    Whilst the impending move towards driverless cars comes closer it is also introducing the questions currently being ironed out about liability and how driverless cars effect your fleet insurance which will cover a far greater number of parties than the driver alone. In addition to this there are also the legal questions on ownership of data with large amounts of information being available on the location, function and use of vehicles. Legislation and regulation aside autonomous technology and driverless cars are set to improve the roads with driver behaviour being superior to that of an average human driver.

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