Car Insurers Warn Manufacturers vs. Using Autopilot Selling Point


A man testing the autopilot setting on his Tesla Model X. / Photo by: Ian Maddox via Wikimedia Commons


Car insurers have warned automobile manufacturers about their use of the word “autopilot” in their marketing strategies. This is because many motorists can be easily convinced about the advanced tech in vehicles, which is not the case.

In April 2018, a British driver lost his license and pled guilty to dangerous driving due to mishandling of an autopilot car. The incident was reported with the driver filming himself inside the passenger seat of the vehicle, instead of in the driver seat of the Tesla S 60, while the car was in autopilot mode at 40 miles per hour in heavy traffic. Bhavesh Patel, the owner of the AV, was banned from driving for 18 months and sanctioned with 10 days rehabilitation, 100 hours of community service, and a £1,800 fine.

This incident is what the Association of British Insurers is warning carmakers and the public about. According to the Thatcham Research, a group that conducts safety tests for motor insurers, the manufacturers must clarify the significant difference between autonomous vehicles and assisted-driving systems.

"There's a problem with the manufacturers trying to introduce technology and consumers not being ready for it, not being sure if it's automated or 'Do I need to keep watching?' We want it very clear. Either you are driving -- assisted -- or you're not driving – automated," explained Matthew Avery, director of insurance research at Thatcham.

In assisted-driving systems, the driver receives assistance in driving the vehicle and an increased car safety. These systems help reduce the chance of human error that has been attributed to numerous car accidents. Meanwhile, in autonomous mode, the software system has the full potential to control the vehicle without requiring human intervention.

However, the most advanced autonomous system in certain AVs is still on Level 3 or Conditional Automation, in which the system can only control specific vehicular functions such as speed, steering and environmental monitoring. The AV still requires a driver present in front of the steering wheel to take over in case a problem occurs.

"Manufacturers must be responsible in how they describe and name what their vehicles can do, and the insurance industry is ready to hold them to account on this," said James Dalton at ABI.