Canadian Underwriter

This aspect of automated vehicle technology is confusing your clients

May 28, 2019   by Greg Meckbach

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Is it your client’s fault if they got into an accident in a partly-automated vehicle because they failed to understand exactly what the car’s computer could and could not do?

“I’m sure it will be fought in court battles over the next few years,” Kristine D’Arbelles, the Canadian Automobile Association’s Ottawa-based senior manager of public affairs, said Tuesday in an interview.

CAA is trying to get Canadians to understand the difference between fully autonomous vehicles and those with automated features, said D’Arbelles.

Moreover, many motorists are confused about the extent to which they can rely on automated vehicle technology to make their drive safer, CAA suggests.

A fully autonomous vehicle is one without a steering wheel or pedals, whereas an automated vehicle has something like lane departure warning or automated emergency braking.

“From a consumer’s perspective, it can be very confusing to know exactly what that feature is doing and what it’s not doing,” D’Arbelles said. “That is a big thing – what it’s actually not doing. If they are assuming that ‘lane keeper’ for example is keeping them in the lane but is really only warning them if they’re [drifting out of] the lane and doesn’t actually swerve them back into the middle of the lane, is it their fault? Or is it the auto manufacturer’s fault? I don’t have an answer for that right now.”

Many clients are concerned that a cruise control assist function, for example, might cause their vehicle to accelerate and if an accident happens, it was not because the driver pushed the gas pedal, she said.

The other day, D’Arbelles rented a car with cruise control assist. “Once I put it on cruise control, it slowed down when the car in front of me slowed down and sped up when the car in front of me started to speed up.”

Clients who rent or borrow or buy new vehicles need to be aware that different manufacturers are using different names for automation technology for marketing reasons, D’Arbelles said.

CAA, a federation of eight independent clubs across the country, released Monday results of a random survey of Canadians.

More than half (61%) had concerns about accountability, in the event of an accident, where they are driving a vehicle with automation technology.

In that poll, about 2,000 Canadians were asked what they think the benefits of autonomous vehicles are. CAA then provided a list of benefits, such as mobility for children, the elderly and people with disabilities who cannot drive.

In the poll, conducted in December, 2018, CAA also asked respondents what are some things they are concerned about.

Their options included accountability in an accident and unauthorized access by a third party to data.

They were also given the option of saying “none of these concern me” or “I do not want to answer.” The result is considered accurate to within 2.2 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

“If we are world where we are sort of giving ownership of our vehicle to say ‘I enabled this feature, so I am putting my trust in this vehicle,’ if it malfunctions, is it my fault? Or is it the auto manufacturers fault?” said D’Arbelles. “In a world where these features are getting more and more sophisticated, and we are going to start relying on them even more, it’s going to be harder to figure out.”

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