Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill

Written evidence submitted by Ageas (VTAB 22)

Committee Stage, House of Commons

Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill

About Ageas UK

Ageas is the third largest motor insurer and a leading provider of award-winning general insurance solutions in the United Kingdom. It distributes Personal and Commercial products through brokers, affinity partners and its own brands. Ageas UK holds a 50.1% share in Tesco Underwriting, providing home and motor insurance to Tesco Bank customers.

Insuring around seven million customers and working with a range of brokers and partners, Ageas UK is recognised for delivering consistent and high-quality customer experiences. It is part of the global Ageas insurance group.

Ageas is working hard to understand and anticipate the effect of autonomous vehicles on our customers and on motor insurance. We are a member of the Automated Driving Insurer Group (ADIG) and support its consideration of key issues relating to automated driving on UK roads, particularly those concerning insurance and liability.

Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill

1) The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill will establish a new insurance regime for the next generation of Autonomous Vehicles currently being developed. Ageas is supportive of the Bill as it reflects the extensive discussions that have taken place between the government, insurance industry and other stakeholders.

2) It is vital that consumers understand the capabilities of new technologies. They must increase safety on our roads rather than introducing additional complications. Ageas would support universal, consumer-friendly definitions being used by all the stakeholders involved in the development of automated technology.

3) The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill is an opportunity to put in place a framework of legislation to support the introduction and deployment of autonomous vehicles on the UK’s roads. Ageas supports the requirement for the Secretary of State for Transport to define which vehicles are ‘Automated’ but it will also be important for all parties to understand what Automated Modes, (e.g. motorway driving, valet parking) are featured on each of these vehicles.

4) We support the requirement for a new form of insurance and in particular the ‘single insurance’ model, similar to the system of strict liability we have previously called for. It will ensure that users of autonomous vehicles are properly protected in they are involved in an accident.

Insurance for autonomous vehicles

1. The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill 2017 makes provision for the Secretary of State for Transport to determine which vehicles can be classified as Automated Vehicles. The new compulsory insurance clauses will apply to these vehicles.

2. This submission is primarily concerned with Part 1, especially Clause 1, of the Bill where we believe merits further consideration. Ageas has a core interest in the technological advancement of vehicles and associated regulatory changes as there is a direct impact on our liabilities, costs and underwriting. We believe that the classification of Automated Vehicles should make clear both the level and type of automation of which a vehicle is capable.

Level of automation

3. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has 5 levels of autonomous driving (www.sae.org/misc/pdfs/automated_driving.pdf). Ageas firmly believes that only vehicles classified by SAE as Level 4 or above should receive the Automated Vehicle classification from the Secretary of State. It is only at this stage that the real societal benefits of assisted and automated driving will be felt.

4. Volvo aim to have vehicles in production capable of Level 4 highway operation by 2021 and Ford and others are aiming to introduce Level 4 automation for low speed urban areas by the same date or potentially earlier. Amendments to permit these developments need to be in place by the end of 2019 at the latest. Tesla have stated an aim to have Level 4 automation in production vehicles by 2018 and a variety of manufacturers have suggested automated valet parking systems requiring no driver present will be available in 2019/20.

5. Ageas is supportive of Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS) at SAE Level 1 and 2. These act only in the brief moments before a collision, or to support (not replace) driver action. An example of this would be Autonomous Emergency Braking, which is proven to reduce collisions by braking a vehicle where a driver has failed or been slow in applying the brakes.

6. At SAE Level 3 the driver is not required to be driving at all times but is required to be capable of taking back control at any moment. The technology in production at the moment is approaching this level. The systems under development have diverse capabilities and widely differing user interfaces. We see significant potential for public confusion about the responsibilities of the driver and a wide variation in the level of risk associated with each vehicle. These concerns were highlighted in the recent House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee report - "Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The future?"

7. Our analysis suggests that the total number of claims may well be lower on aggregate with SAE Level 3 technologies, but there is a potential for more catastrophic claims, such as multi-vehicle pile-ups on motorways or dual carriageways. Drivers cannot be expected to take back control of a fast-moving vehicle at a moment’s notice when it is in a situation it cannot handle and make safe judgements every time. The risks involved are clear.

8. We would therefore prefer that systems requiring the driver to act as a redundant backup (i.e. SAE Level 3) should not be permitted by the regulations. The one exception to this which could be considered is where vehicle manufacturers see SAE Level 3 technologies as a vital stepping stone in the development of full automation. If, as presently planned, this incremental development approach is to be permitted, then strict controls are necessary over both the construction and use of these vehicles. Their use should be to test and progress technology under supervision only.

Type of automation

9. The SAE refer to what it calls "Operational Design Domains" for Automated Vehicles. These are the situations in which a vehicle is capable of driving itself. They should be included in the designations of the Transport Secretary. It is vital that insurers and others know what a vehicle is capable of, beyond a simple designation that it is capable of automated driving.

10. It may be more consumer friendly for these to be referred to as Automated Modes. The development of terminology that is readily understood by consumers and helps them to understand the capability of vehicles they are using will be an important element of successfully introducing Automated Vehicles.

11. The number and type of permitted uses of automation is likely to significantly affect risk and insurers need to be able to identify and price that risk. The following are also considered to be key requirements of an Automated Vehicle, although it should be noted that the list may not be exhaustive at this stage:-

A safe system of operation must be supported. The system must be able to determine (using all the information available to it from on-board and off-board sources) in what circumstances it is able to offer its driver an Automated Mode of operation, taking into account:-

a. The environment in which it is operating (type of road, car park, private drive etc);

b. Traffic conditions, road pavement conditions etc.

c. Weather

d. Connectivity

e. Speed limit and/or average traffic speed

12. A vehicle may support and therefore be able to offer one or more Automated Modes such as driving on Motorways and fully separated dual carriageways, low-speed urban road operation, automated valet parking in car parks etc. This should be at the discretion of the manufacturer to define but the regulation should mandate that the system cannot be activated outside of those permitted modes.

13. Transitions of control (from Manual to Automated and vice versa) must go through a properly planned and executed ‘offer and confirm’ process. In this way, the Automated Mode will not be engaged until after the vehicle has understood the planned journey and/or parking manoeuvre it will be carrying out and confirmed that it is safe to operate in the Automated Mode. This includes when Automated Mode will become available and where, if applicable, any return to manual control will need to take place.

14. Once in an Automated Mode of operation, the vehicle must be able to deal with all situations it could be expected to encounter, without monitoring or intervention from the driver, until the planned point of handover back to manual control or the completion of the journey or parking manoeuvre. For example, on urban roads an Automated Vehicle should be capable of dealing with all other road users: pedestrians, cyclists, scooters etc; on a motorway, it should expect to deal with pedestrians on the hard shoulder next to a broken-down car.

15. As a minimum, a vehicle in an Automated Mode should enforce compliance with the designated speed limit. However, consideration could be given to introducing risk adaptive speed control. This would lead to them driving at a speed appropriate for the driving environment, such as a reduced speed in residential areas at peak times for pedestrians, or slightly faster speeds on A roads or motorways where there is light traffic and no danger for other road users. For example, when a vehicle is operating in a 30 mile/h limit but detects a large quantity of pedestrians on the kerb it might slow to 20 mile/h. By contrast, on a street where a 20 mile/h limit is posted (typically to improve pedestrian safety) at 4:30 in the morning where no pedestrians are detected in the vicinity of the vehicle, it might permit a speed of 30 mile/h. This would clearly require amendment of existing speed limit legislation.

16. Sufficient redundancy will be required to allow an Automated Vehicle operating in an Automated Mode to fail operationally in a safe manner. For example, if any one single part of the system fails (e.g. a single sensor, or connection to the cloud map) then there should be sufficient redundancy for the vehicle to safely complete the planned journey at least as far as a previously identified ‘safe haven’ (i.e. not just at the side of the road where the failure occurred) and possibly in a reduced speed ‘limp home’ mode.

17. For the avoidance of doubt, any human driver in an Automated Vehicle operating in Automated Mode should not be considered a redundant system or solution.

18. An Automated Vehicle may be certified as such at the point of initial deployment or following the introduction of a software or hardware upgrade that enables the functionality of a new or improved Automated Mode.

Further legislation and regulations

19. When the above requirements are met, the regulation of vehicle use (Road Traffic Act, Construction & Use Regulations and the Highway Code etc.) can be relaxed to permit the driver to undertake other activity. However, they must remain fit to resume driving if the whole journey is not automated.

20. A vehicle certified as an Automated Vehicle will include cover, under its applicable motor insurance, for any liability arising when operating in an Automated Mode. Where there is clear fault or failure in the Automated Mode systems the motor insurer will be able to pursue recovery against the manufacturer and/or their systems supplier(s).

21. The use of Motor in the first instance, rather than Product Liability, insurance will ensure that the UK continues to operate within a compulsory insurance regime which has a provision in place for uninsured vehicles through the MIB scheme. As market penetration of Level 4 and ultimately Level 5 automation increases legislators should consider the move towards insurance of the vehicle, rather than of the driver.

March 2017

 

Prepared 23rd March 2017