Motorists should get the green light to let their cars “self-drive” on British motorways later this year – but what will the new rules mean and which cars already have driverless technology?
The experts at Adrian Flux answer your questions about the change in the law and the driverless technology that already exists.
When will I be able to use my car’s driverless technology?
The Department of Transport has declared its intention to allow people to use automated lane-keeping systems (Alks) in motorway traffic travelling at 37 miles an hour or less before the end of the year. The Alk keeps the car in its lane and a safe distance from other vehicles.
According to the DfT, the technology could actually improve road safety by reducing human error.
The driverless technology could only be used on motorways, where traffic flows in the same direction and no pedestrians or cyclists are permitted. It must switch control back to the driver when required, such as when a traffic jam clears and traffic speeds up, allowing up to 10 seconds for the transition.
How does driverless technology affect my insurance?
Driverless technology has the power to eliminate driver error which is the number one cause of road traffic accidents. With less accidents, claims will fall and the cost of motor insurance should fall too. But your driverless car insurance will need to protect you against a whole heap of new risks.
Adrian Flux was the first insurance broker to offer driverless car insurance and bespoke policies offering peace of mind protection for faulty software and corrupted downloads, to patchy satellite coverage, firewall failures and third party hackers.
What other driverless technology do cars already have?
There is a wide range of driverless technology available but each falls into one of four categories.
Adaptive cruise control
ACC uses radar, Lidar — which works on the principle of radar, but uses light from a laser — and cameras to monitor traffic ahead, adjusting the accelerator and brake to maintain a set distance. The best systems operate in stop-start traffic and at high speeds.
Cameras and radar sensors are used to identify obstacles ahead, and warn the driver of an imminent collision. The system will apply brakes if there’s no reaction. Advanced versions can distinguish between people, cyclists and animals, and plot the direction in which they are heading.
Assisted lane-keeping systems
Cameras monitor white lane markings and guide the car back into line if it’s drifting out of its lane. The latest technology keeps the car in the centre of the lane automatically.
Ultrasonic sensors detect parking spaces large enough for the vehicle and then steer the car into bays, while the driver controls the accelerator and brake.
So how reliable is driverless technology?
The most advanced cars integrate all the above driverless technology, enabling it to drive unassisted on well-marked roads, but drivers still have to keep their hands on the wheel and concentrate, as human intervention may be required at any moment.
Even the best driverless technology will struggle in certain situations, perhaps on unmarked roads or during periods of inclement weather such as thick fog and snow.
That said, Audi claims its A8 saloon is ready to drive itself when the law permits and Tesla has said all its cars are capable of self-driving more safely than if it was driven by a person.
Which are the safest cars for driverless technology?
When people talk about technology in cars the conversation often goes to Tesla and when you talk about safety, Volvo is often at the forefront, so it’s little surprise these are among the top performers for safe driverless technology.
But one or two more modest models can now hold their own when it comes to safe driverless technology, and they come at a fraction of the price of their more illustrious counterparts.
Here are four cars with very safe and reliable driverless features.
If you have 80 grand to spare, the Tesla X would be a good investment and it comes with a host of driverless technology to keep you safe. That includes 360° rear, side and forward-facing cameras, 160m forward facing radar providing long-range view of the road ahead and ultrasonic sensors to detect nearby carsand help prevent collisions and assist with parking.
For around £30,000, the Leaf comes with ProPilot semi-autonomous tech to help control lane positioning and keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front. Propilot Park tech takes control of the accelerator and brake for fully autonomous parking.
For under half the price of the Tesla you can get the XC40, one of Volvo’s top selling cars in Britain. The SUV features Volvo’s Pilot Assist driverless technology which can provide steering assistance and maintain the distance to the vehicle in front.
Audi A1 Sportback
Coming in at less than £20k, The A1 features park assist and other driverless technology such as lane departure warning and cruise control. With parking gear engaged the driver needs to use the accelerator and brakes while the car maneuvers itself into or out of a parking space.
Protecting your investment
If you’re spending that sort of money to get the very latest in driverless technology, you will want to protect your investment with peace of mind motor insurance.
Adrian Flux has been providing just that for almost half a century. You can get a quick and hassle free quote by calling 0800 369 8590 — 79.5% of all customers receiving an online quote in July 2020 could have obtained a cheaper quote over the phone, based on the information they provided.
We’re especially competitive if you’ve been quoted more than £2,000.