Accident experts in Britain are working on the world’s first rating system for the safety of autonomous cars.
Crash testers at Thatcham Research outside Reading have worked with global systems engineers, car makers and the Law Commission to draw up the safety ratings which could be applied to models in the same way as the familiar Euro NCap stars.
The development comes as Mercedes-Benz in Germany announced that it will accept legal responsibility for collisions that occur in its cars fitted with an ‘L3’ Automated Lane Keeping System, when directly caused by a fault with its technology but not when the driver has “failed to comply with their duty of care”.
With this news representing another significant milestone on the road towards Automated Driving, Matthew Avery, chief research strategy officer, Thatcham Research, commented on the issue of legal liability for the first iterations of the technology.
“The issue of liability in automated vehicles is complex and nuanced. It’s too crude to suggest that the carmaker should be liable in all circumstances; there will be times when an accident is and isn’t the carmaker’s responsibility,” he said.
“What is apparent in the case of Mercedes, the first to have approval – albeit in Germany – for technology that will allow drivers to disengage and do other things, is that when the automated system is in control, the carmaker will be liable.
“What’s less straightforward is an accident that occurs when the driver has failed “to comply with their duty of care”, for example when refusing to retake control of the car when prompted.”
He added, ““Insurance claims will require scrutiny, so the provision of data to help insurers understand who was in control of the vehicle at the time of an accident, system or driver, will also be vital.
“Trust will diminish if confusion reigns and drawn-out legal cases become common, hampering adoption of the technology and the realisation of its many societal benefits.
“Fostering consumer confidence and trust in the first iterations of Automated Driving is paramount. This is where independent consumer rating will have an important role to play in driving safe adoption by making people aware of systems that are not as good as others.”
Thatcham Research is currently leading the development of a consumer safety rating to support the safe adoption of Automated Driving Systems. Funded by government organisation Zenzic and in co-operation with Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) Testbed partners, the rating will give UK motorists and insurers greater clarity around relative performance and safe use of automated technology.
It aims to be the first of its kind in the world to independently rate the performance of Automated Driving Systems and combine virtual and physical testing.