Self-driving cars ‘will transform the lives of the elderly’.Fri, 10/11/2017
The Transport Secretary says that new autonomous vehicles will allow old people to retain their freedom, giving them the option to travel independently.
James Salmon, The Daily Mail, reports:
The lives of elderly and the disabled will be transformed by self-driving cars, the Transport Secretary claimed today.
The first autonomous cars are expected to be on Britain's roads by 2021.
In a speech in London, Chris Grayling promoted the benefits of this new mode of transport to the economy and to society.
The government has estimated that driverless cars could be worth £28 billion to the economy by 2035.
It has also been claimed automated cars will make the roads safer, with 85 per cent of accidents last year caused by human error. It is hoped this will help push down premiums.
Speaking at the Association of British Insurers annual conference in London, Mr Grayling said there were 'huge safety implications' for removing control of vehicles from drivers.
'Self-driving cars should make road travel far safer by eliminating the biggest contributory factor in accidents today - human error', he told the audience.
But – laying out ambitions for Britain to lead the 'automated vehicle revolution' – Mr Grayling argued that this technology could be of greatest use to the ageing population.
Nearly a third of the population will be over sixty by 2030 and people with mobility difficulties are far less likely to drive.
'I think this is the real core of the revolution that lies ahead', Mr Grayling said.
'We've seen nothing in our lifetimes that can compare with the motoring revolution that's just around the corner.
'A revolution that will transform the way we travel, the way we buy, run and power our cars, and the way we insure them.'
After arriving at the event in a semi-autonomous Tesla vehicle, which he said was able to brake and accelerate to fit in with the traffic in front, he claimed the benefits of such vehicles would be witnessed 'much sooner than most people expect'.
'I expect the first completely self-driving cars to reach the market and to be used on UK roads by 2021', he said.
Many members of the public - particularly among older generations - will be sceptical about the prospect of self-driving cars.
'The potential benefits of these new technologies for human mobility – and for wider society – are tremendously exciting', said Mr Grayling.
'Many who can't currently drive will be able to take to the road. Elderly people or people with disabilities which prevent them from travelling today will discover a new sense of freedom and independence.'
The government is trying to whip up support for the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament.
This is designed to establish the legal framework which will allow driverless cars on Britain's roads.
If passed, it will mandate compulsory insurance.
One of the biggest sticking points for the new technology is the question of who is liable if there is an accident – the owner of the vehicle or the manufacturer of the technology.
Ministers have asked insurance companies to design a new breed of policy to ensure the owners of driverless cars are not blamed if faulty technology causes a crash.
The new legislation will allow insurers to create a single policy for automated vehicles which can cover both the motorist when they are driving, as well as the car when it is in automated mode.
They will pay out quickly to victims, including those injured in a crash with an automated car.
'This will ensure that victims have quick and easy access to compensation,' Mr Grayling said.
But insurers will also be able to recoup costs from manufacturers if the technology rather than the driver is proved to be at fault.
This should ensure victims of accidents involving automated cars are protected, while their owners do not face spiralling premiums if the car manufacturer is to blame.
Insurance companies today called for more clarity on what constitutes an automated car.
The government has said it will create a list of automated vehicles as part of the bill.
The ABI said that does not go far enough and said that cars which require any intervention from the driver cannot be classed as automated.
Many of the world's biggest car makers and technology giants – including Ford, Nissan and Google - are rushing to develop the first fully automated vehicles.
Trials of fully automated cars have been held in Milton Keynes and near the Millennium Dome in London.
But many vehicles already have some form of automation such as cruise control and assisted parking.
The ABI said that unless cars are fully automated its members will not be prepared to provide this new type of insurance policy, meaning the motorist rather than the manufacturer will be liable for any accident.
Ben Howarth, senior policy adviser for motor and liability at the ABI said manufacturers must be 'absolutely clear about how they describe what their vehicles can do'.
He added: 'Truly automated vehicles have the potential to drastically reduce road accidents, cut delays and make it easier for people who cannot drive to get around.
'However, there will inevitably be a transition period from today's cars to the vehicles of the future, via vehicles which offer gradually increasing levels of autonomy.
'There is the potential for confusion during this interim stage when people could wrongly think their vehicles can be left alone to manage a journey independently.'
The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill will also force petrol stations around the country to introduce more charging points for electric vehicles.
The government has pledged to ban sales of new diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2040 and that it wants almost every car and van on the roads to be a zero emission vehicle by 2050.
A 'cluster of excellence' is to be created along the M40 corridor to develop driverless car technology using existing testing centres in Birmingham, Coventry, Oxford, Milton Keynes and London.
An RAC poll in July found that two out of five motorists believe the Government should concentrate on improving roads instead of supporting the growth of autonomous vehicles.
The survey of almost 2,200 drivers found that 39 per cent want work such as redesigning congestion pinch points and repairing potholes to be given preference.
More than a quarter (27 per cent) of respondents felt money would also be better spent on health or education, while 17 per cent support investment in driverless cars but believe it 'should not be a priority'.
Whilst there are many technical, moral and safety dilemmas with self-driving that are rife in the media, it’s clear that should those obstacles be overcome, self-driving cars offer exciting advances for the future.