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SMMT ‘guiding principles’ seek to clarify hands-free driving technology

A Volvo XC90 with collision avoidance technology

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has published a series of “guiding principles” to prevent customer confusion about the 'hands-free' driving capabilities of their car.

Ahead of the expected arrival of Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) on UK motorways from 2022 the SMMT has teamed-up with the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles to deliver the new guidance, which is recognised by industry, Government, and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Among the aims of the initiative is to that of ensuring car buyers are not misled or confused by descriptions of systems that can take partial control of their vehicle, making it clear that “the driver must be in control at all times”.

SMMT chief executive, Mike HawesSMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: “The UK is at the forefront of the introduction of automated vehicles, which has tremendous potential to save lives, improve mobility for all and drive economic growth.

“It is essential that this revolutionary technology is marketed accurately and responsibly, and we are delighted to have brought together industry, government and other key stakeholders to develop a series of guiding principles that will ensure consumers will have clarity and confidence over their capabilities from when these advanced vehicles first make their way into showrooms.”

Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research, said: “These guiding principles are a key milestone in ensuring there is no confusion around the capabilities of assisted driving systems and future automated systems, as well as the responsibilities of the drivers using them.

“We have long advocated consistency of terminology. There are two clear states – a vehicle is either assisted with a driver being supported by technology or automated where the technology is effectively and safely replacing the driver.

“We urge manufacturers now to use simple marketing that does not over promise functionality and the key is for them to be delivered consistently across all marketing material, as well as through effective dealership education and their subsequent conversations and engagement with consumers.”

Steve Young, ICDP managing directorEarlier this year AM featured a 'guest opinion' feature written by ICDP managing director, Steve Young, in which he warned of the potential risks posed by Government's approval of ALKS on UK roads.

He wrote that confusion about the system's capabilities could lead to a "potentially chaotic situation where the end-result may turn out to be the exact opposite of that which is being targeted – more accidents and more injuries, and potential arguments over liability".

The SMMT’s guiding principles state that:

  • An automated driving feature must be described sufficiently clearly so as not to mislead, including setting out the circumstances in which that feature can function.
  • An automated driving feature must be described sufficiently clearly so that it is distinguished from an assisted driving feature.
  • Where both automated driving and assisted driving features are described, they must be clearly distinguished from each other.
  • An assisted driving feature should not be described in a way that could convey the impression that it is an automated driving feature.
  • The name of an automated or assisted driving feature must not mislead by conveying that it is the other - ancillary words may be necessary to avoid confusion - for example for an assisted driving feature, by making it clear that the driver must be in control at all times.

Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said: “Self-driving vehicles have the potential to make journeys safer, greener and more accessible for all, which is why we want to make the UK the best place to trial, develop and deploy their technology, to ensure we are among the first to realise their benefits.

“It is essential that industry and stakeholders are clear on their responsibilities and developed in partnership with Government, motoring and road safety groups, the SMMT’s Guiding Principles are an important step to promote the safe use of automated technologies in the UK.”


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