Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO), responded to the Department for Transport and the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) call for evidence on the safe use of Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) on Great Britain's motorways.
Whilst acknowledging that the UK is in a position to "seize the opportunity to make the most from automated vehicle technology", ACSO stated the importance of ensuring systems are robustly tested as to their impact on other road users. Maxwell Scott said "this is particularly important in regard to motorcyclists who, within the group of vulnerable road users, share all kinds of road and traffic environment conditions with motorcar users.
"A number of studies show that modern cars do not have robust assisted driving technology and/or equipment to detect motorcyclists, thereby throwing into question whether the technology currently exists to transition from assisted to automated driving systems. For example, in 2017 a test was carried out on the capabilities of Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) to detect motorcyclists and found the results to be unsatisfactory. Furthermore, as noted by ACEM, the European Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers, some driver handbooks contain statements such as "the system may not detect small vehicles like motorcycles".
"It is essential that automated vehicle technology does not cause detriment to the safety of motorcyclists and other road users, including those who are defined as vulnerable. In agreement with ACEM, motorcyclists or their representations should be included in automated vehicle technology test procedures in order to ensure such systems are able reliably to detect motorcycles in potential crash scenarios. Furthermore, we urge the Department for Transport and CCAV to engage with relevant stakeholders to ensure the rights, interests and safety of all road users are considered fully in regard to the implementation of automated vehicle technology.
"We recognise that automated vehicle technology has the potential to improve transport across the UK and to reduce traffic collisions caused by human error. However, given the issues which currently exist with assisted vehicle technology, including safety limitations, we are concerned that automated vehicle technology remains nascent. This concern is exacerbated by the ambitious time frame that has been put forward by the Department for Transport for the deployment of automated vehicle technology, spring 2021. Furthermore, this is unlikely to provide sufficient time to test robustly the impact of ALKS upon other road users."
The introduction of automated vehicle technology has significant implications for the UK's legal framework as a whole. "Of particular importance", Maxwell Scott highlighted, "is whether liability for a traffic collision will shift from the driver of the vehicle to the manufacturer of the ALKS system. In addition, serious questions arise as to how easily data may be made available to manufacturers, claimant representatives, insurers and other related parties to establish whether the driver or the automated system was in control at the time.
"Given the significant implications to the legal framework, we urge both the Department for Transport and the CCAV to work with a broad range of stakeholders - including law firms, regulators, ombudsman services and consumer bodies - to ensure automated vehicle technology does not have a detrimental impact on access to justice for those injured in a road traffic collision."
ACSO members can read the submission in full on the members' area of the website.