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How is the industry preparing for the advent of self-driving cars

As we journey ever closer to a world of self-driving cars and rapidly approach the introduction of a wide range of autonomous driving features and systems in all our vehicles, the time has come for governments, insurance companies and automotive makers to prepare for the future.

The introduction of self-driving cars will require insurance policies to “double up,” satisfying new requirements and providing coverage for accidents both in case of human-controlled and autonomously-driven vehicles.

UK Addresses Self-Driving Car Insurance

The United Kingdom, which is one of the first countries around the globe to address this new challenge, has presented the  Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill to Parliament that allows victims to file insurance claims related to accidents with autonomously driven cars. In particular, the bill also addresses the use/misuse of autonomous driving system software, by providing that if a vehicle’s software is altered or an update is not installed, the vehicle’s owner will be responsible for any damage caused.

The UK Department of Transport will be called upon to ascertain which vehicles are to be considered as self-driving and subject to the new insurance coverage requirements in view of the vast range of autonomous driving features that will soon be introduced to the market.

Defining Driving Automation

SAE International, a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries, has developed a common reference framework of definitions and classifications to harmonize the global ranking of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles.

The SAE J3016 International Standard identifies six levels of driving automation from “no automation” to “full automation,” in which levels 1-3 are characterized by a human driver monitoring the driving environment and levels 4-6 in which an autonomous software system monitors the driving environment.

Clearly, the aim of this new standard is to eliminate all confusion and provide a clear framework across a range of sectors (engineering, legal, media, etc.) and, possibly, countries.

A Leap of Faith

One of the biggest obstacles to the introduction of self-driving cars, just as with every type of new technology that has been introduced before, is user mistrust, which mainly concerns safety and privacy issues, but not only.

One approach to this issue is to gradually introduce semi-autonomous driving features (levels 1-3 of the SAE International Standard), but experts and testers claim that monitoring a self-driving car can be very taxing for humans and that delving straight into fully-autonomous driving systems may well be far safer.

In the United Kingdom, the new bill presented to Parliament also aims to regulate the provision of electric power charging points at petrol stations and large retailers; require charging point operators to clearly disclose all fees and operating hours; and require the charging point operators to provide systems that are compatible with a wide range of vehicles.

Indeed, providing users with a complete range of services and clear legislation is one of the easiest ways to promote the introduction of a new technology, drive businesses to invest in it, and allay as many common fears as possible.

And once we learn to trust this new technology to keep us safe, napping in our cars on our way to work, will become as natural as on-line shopping and mobile banking! Even technology is an issue of faith.

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