Driverless vehicles on the road
– how close is our autonomous future?
By Caroline Bødkerholm, If
The majority of traffic accidents are caused by human error, which can be related to conscious acts such as speeding, alcohol, mobile phone use as well as stress or even simple distractions. Although human errors can be minimised or even prevented with advanced driver assistance systems, the question remains: are autonomous, self-driving vehicles safe? And there are plenty more questions, from legal concerns to insurance matters, alongside technical issues that are essential to consider. We have gathered specialists at If P&C Insurance within the field to talk about the possibilities and the risks involved.
Why look at insurance data?
Insurance data provides unique insight into the safety and development of advanced driver assistance systems on the way to fully autonomous vehicles. The quantity, availability, and representativeness of insurance data offers extensive insights into traffic safety. This data provides valuable information when evaluating real-world conditions, the reliability of traffic safety systems, as well as the safety of the vehicles on our roads.
If's Research Leader in Traffic Safety, Irene Isaksson-Hellman, comments:
“There is a general lack of crash data around vehicles equipped with the latest technology as the number of such cars involved in accidents is low. However, one enabler for early evaluations is insurance data to obtain the amount of data required to make this assessment accurately.”
Where are we today?
The industry is moving at an accelerated pace towards autonomous solutions. Anders Lindström, Casualty Underwriter at If P&C Insurance comments;
“Google is moving fast with the development of their robotaxi service, Waymo. One of the reasons is that the State of California is permitting fully driverless vehicle testing, and has since 2018. Currently, there are seven companies who have permits for driverless vehicle testing in California, with one company (Nuro) also being granted a permit for the use of driverless vehicles in their commercial delivery services.
Further, we have China and the US that are in a race to finalise the techniques and both countries want their companies to be the world leaders within this field."
Despite above examples, there is widespread doubt about the vision of a completely driverless traffic system becoming a reality any time soon.
Irene highlights, “the preferred environment for AVs is a fully-automated one, without pedestrians, cyclists and manually driven cars. Clearly, today’s big cities constitute a very complex environment for AVs, as the behaviour of pedestrians, cyclists and manual driven cars is impossible to predict.”
From a technical viewpoint
If P&C Insurance has expertise in mobility trends and follows the legal aspects, technology developments and social considerations surrounding autonomous vehicles.
Irene states that, “we are studying advanced driver assistance systems and estimating the benefits from these. From our perspective, the ultimate aim is to prevent accidents, and reduce the number of fatal and serious accidents.
Fortunately, the number of deaths in traffic accidents continues to decline. We can say that traffic safety has improved and that vehicles are safer and more intelligent than ever before."
Some of the latest vehicle safety and driver-assist technologies include:
- Pre-sense or collision-avoidance, which automatically brakes the vehicle in a critical situation – recognising more and more things beyond cars including wildlife such as a moose or a deer, as well as pedestrians and cyclists.
- Lane keeping aids, which help keeping the vehicle in the lane.
- New technologies that are around the corner include monitoring the status of the driver, alertness and attention to the driving task.
Road traffic fatalities in Nordic countries 2011-2020
SSB, Statistikcentralen, Vejdirektoratet and the Swedish Transport Agency