- Title: Who's to blame when driverless cars crash?
- Date: 12th December 2016
- Summary: PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA, UNITED STATES (FILE - SEPTEMBER 2016) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF ENGINEER MONITORING UBER VEHICLE AS IT DRIVES AUTONOMOUSLY CLOSE-UP OF STEERING WHEEL OPERATING AUTONOMOUSLY IN AN UBER VEHICLE
- Embargoed: 27th December 2016 10:06
- Keywords: autonomous cars driverless Google Catapult Octo Telematics crash accident insurance
- Location: MILTON KEYNES AND LONDON, ENGLAND, UK / PARIS, FRANCE / MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA, ANND PITTSBURGH, UNITED STATES
- City: MILTON KEYNES AND LONDON, ENGLAND, UK / PARIS, FRANCE / MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA, ANND PITTSBURGH, UNITED STATES
- Country: United Kingdom
- Reuters ID: LVA0075CKVXP7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The long-awaited arrival of driverless cars on our roads is picking up pace with companies rushing to invest in the new technology. Major automobile manufacturers including BMW, Ford, Nissan and Volvo are all developing autonomous vehicles. However, it's Google that has built a leading position thanks in part to its tech expertise, while Apple Inc also recently signalled its ambition to not get left behind.
The automotive and tech companies pursuing the driverless car share a utopian belief: autonomous vehicles will benefit society, eventually saving most of the nearly 33,000 people each year killed in road accidents in America alone. But does that mean cars without a human at the wheel won't ever crash?
"Autonomous vehicles do crash and they do kill people. And this is something that will continue to happen because at the moment we don't have autonomous pedestrians, or autonomous cyclists," said Jonathan Hewett from Octo Telematics, which provides data analytics for insurance companies.
The problem lies in putting driverless cars on today's already congested roads alongside other existing forms of traffic, Hewett told Reuters.
"The roads are going to be a difficult and complicated place. And in that complicated place, the data and the analytics to know precisely who is doing what at any given time is immutable, it's something that we have to know," he said.
Some analysts believe widespread adoption of autonomous driving and automated accident-avoidance technology could undermine automobile insurers. But companies like Octo Telematics say autonomous driving will not end litigation over accidents - but it will change who gets sued. In other words, when cars drive themselves, manufacturers - as opposed to human drivers - would be liable.
Octo Telematics analyses driver and vehicle data gathered using on-board 'black boxes' or built-in connected car platforms to help insurance and automotive companies spot potential risks in a bid to lower insurance premiums. For example, if an accident occurs, they can use the telematics data from the vehicle to further understand what happened and who is potentially liable. The company says they've analysed 136 billion miles of driving data and 358,000 crashes to optimise and perfect their analytical algorithms.
"Motor manufacturers need to know whether it's their hardware or software at fault or whether it's the driver, and what the dynamic is when other third parties are involved outside of just autonomous or connected vehicles," added Hewett.
Earlier this year the UK government announced it wants to build an autonomous car industry to serve a world-wide market it says will be worth around 900 billion pounds ($1.1 trillion) by 2025. Carmakers Jaguar Land Rover and Ford are both part of driverless car projects in Britain.
But all parties still need to overcome legal obstacles including determining who would be responsible in the event of an accident, with recent incidents involving driving assistance systems raising safety concerns.
As driverless cars hit the road, crash analytics will play an increasing part in helping vehicles become safer, as well as assessing fraudulent insurance claims.
Hewett said Octo Telematics produces "crash reconstruction dossiers which shows with very forensic level of detail where the car has been damaged, the speed of the impact, the angle of the impact. And this allows a much more accurate assessment of what to pay for the claim. The next generation of these services are going to go beyond the metal to look at the individuals and the likelihood of soft-tissue, whiplash-type injuries; which in the UK alone are a blight on the insurance industry."
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