Car insurance: New hands free driving tool could ‘affect premiums’ as firms ‘lack clarity’

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Automated lane keeping systems are being reviewed by the Department for Transport before the tech could launch next year. The DfT review is set to look into whether driving laws need to be updated and determine whether the new tool can consider the car to be an automated vehicle.

However, experts at Thatcham Research warns that the technology comes with a lot of “variability” which concerns car insurance firms.

Matthew Avery, spokesperson for the firm said car insurance premiums were unlikely to come down in cost despite the tool being installed to boost road safety.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said: “Insurers need to know who’s driving in the collision and there won’t be any indication of who was driving at the time of the collision.

“Therefore even if it wasn’t your fault you’re going to blame the system and if it was your fault you’re going to blame the system.

“There’s a lot of variability in this, a lot of lack of clarity for the insurer and therefore it’s going to affect premiums. If the risk is higher, insurers are going to be conservative.

“Theoretically insurance should be coming down for tense systems because they should be cheaper to insure because they will crash less.

“But the insurers won’t know and therefore you’re not going to get the expected reduction in premiums automatically.”

Under current legislation, Mr Avery warned motorists cannot “use excuses” about whether they were using the tool or not to get out of being held responsible for a collision.

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He said: “You can’t use excuses because you’re legally liable because these are driver assisted systems.

“They will help you where they can but ultimately you have to be watching.”

However, if authorities decide to classify the tool as an automated vehicle this could ensure drivers are not held responsible for certain collisions.

Manufacturers will then be blamed for failures and liable for accidents caused by the technology.

But car insurance firms have warned the current technology cannot be classed as automated as it currently stands.

Friends have called for more tools to be installed which can determine which mode the car was in at the time of an accident.

Mr Avery told Express.co.uk: “The reason insurers don’t like this being classed as automated is we think for an automated car to be safe it has to be the same as a competent driver.

“The systems we see today and we think will see next year will not be as good as a competent driver.

“They can’t move lanes, they will be restricted to the lane you’re in, a competent driver can move out and move around stuff. They won’t avoid deep water, animals or debris on the road.

“If there is something crossing the road or if there’s a bumper cover fallen off a car you’re going to hit it.

“The systems are not going to be sensitive to pedestrians. You get people breaking down in cars and getting out. We see fatalities from people who are struck on one corner [of a car].  

“The regulations do not stipulate you’ve got to avoid a pedestrian across the whole vehicle, in other words, they are not going to stop hitting pedestrians.”

ALKS systems automatically take control of vehicles to ensure they do not leave the lane while driving.

Many experts have praised the new technology with SMMT chairman Mike Hawes predicting the tool will be “life-changing”.

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