Driverless cars

Driverless cars will still be a hands-on experience

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Driving schools might soon have to prepare drivers for doing the right thing when they are behind the controls of a driverless car. And they better also ensure their driving school insurance covers them against all eventualities regarding this new technology.

According to a new report, drivers might have to take a second driving test if they wanted to own driverless cars to prove they know how to control these vehicles, which are set to make their appearance on UK roads within the next three years.

The warning came after recent incidents sparked safety concerns over what happens when these cars hand back control to their drivers.

At speeds of between 20 and 50 miles per hour, the average driver was found to take what could amount to a crucial two to three seconds before they regain control of an autonomous vehicle when it switches over from autonomous mode to manual driving.

At a speed of 50 miles per hour, it would mean the car travelling 45 metres with, for all practical purposes, nobody being in control.

The study also found that car insurance companies could well determine their premiums based on how well drivers are able to get back to controlling their vehicle, with retirees – who might not be able to react quite so quickly – facing higher car insurance premiums.

New legislation could also make it illegal for owners to read, nap or watch movies in self-driving vehicles the study warned.

Ian McIntosh, the CEO of RED Driving School, said the Highway Code and driving test would most likely have to be overhauled to make provision for the new technology.

He went on to say: “There are still a number of issues to be resolved regarding driverless cars. Driverless vehicle technology is likely to come in very gradually and will continue to exist alongside normal cars for decades to come.”

Motorists could also face a fine if they contravene the law while they move out of the way of emergency vehicles such as ambulances. Going through a red light or entering a bus lane to allow an emergency vehicle to pass could mean a fine of £100 (as a minimum) as well as three penalty points.

With any amount of driving automation, drivers will still have to be 100% attentive behind the wheel – since they might have to switch to manual driving mode at any given moment. On this particular issue there are simply no half-measures.

The report was compiled by the Venturer consortium, which has recently been busy testing future technologies in the city of Bristol. It used driving simulators as well as on-road trials to point out the risks involved with self-driving vehicles.

Members of the consortium include Bristol University, the Axa insurance company, BAE Systems, and the University of the West of England. It said that determining liability in the event of a crash was another problem.

This is just one more hurdle which self-driving cars will have to overcome – and it comes hot on the heels of the fatal accident in which an Arizona woman was recently run over by a driverless car. The Volvo 4×4 which killed Elaine Herzberg in March belonged to Uber.


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