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Driverless cars – how will insurance work?

The Association of British Insurers has announced 10 criteria that will define what is – and isn’t – safe use of a driverless car

Words ByClaire Evans

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driverless car and pedestrian

What should drivers expect from driverless cars? The ABI and Thatcham Research have worked together to come up with a list of features and capabilities that a car must possess to be categorised as driverless rather than highly assisted.

The 10 key features and performance criteria are:

1. Naming: clearly describes automated capability

2. Law abiding: complies with UK traffic laws and the Highway Code

3. Location specific: functionality is limited to specific types of roads or areas via geo-fencing

4. Clear handover: transfer of driving control follows a clear β€˜offer and confirm’ process

5. Safe driving: vehicle can manage all reasonably expected situations by itself

6. Unanticipated handover: adequate and appropriate notice must be given if the vehicle needs to unexpectedly hand back driving control

7. Safe stop: vehicle executes an appropriate β€˜safe stop’ if unable to continue or the driver does not take back control

8. Emergency intervention: vehicles can avoid or prevent an accident by responding to an emergency

9. Back-up systems: safeguards step in if any systems fail

10. Accident data: record and report what systems were in use at the time of an accident

This is the first set of criteria to be published in the UK since the varying levels of autonomy in 2016.

Ben Howarth, senior policy advisor for motor and liability at the ABI, said: β€œThe Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill has a broad statutory definition of what an automated car is. That’s fine as far as legislation goes. What we’ve published are the insurance industry’s criteria to follow on to the legislation, and define the difference between automated and non-automated cars.”

Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham, added: β€œRegulators and insurers require this information to classify and insure vehicles appropriately, while consumers need to understand the different functionality and capability of cars and their own responsibilities between various models. Consequently, a system that needs the driver to control or monitor the vehicle in any way cannot be classified as automated.”

This is an important and potentially confusing nuance in an increasingly autonomous car industry, where consumers may not be clear on where and in which cars they can relinquish control.

Read more: Are autonomous cars safe >


The safest SUVs on sale today

With their tough looks, 4x4s and SUVs have long been seen as some of the safest cars on the road. However, crash tests conducted by the independent safety assessors at Euro NCAP show there are still sizeable differences between the best and worst performers.

Below we count down the 10 SUVs that have received the highest scores since the latest – and toughest – version of the Euro NCAP test was introduced at the start of 2016. Scores are out of 400.

10. Audi Q2

Adults will feel a bit cramped in the back of Audi's smallest SUV, but children will be fine, and the interior is beautifully finshed. The Q2 is great fun to drive, too, and it just sneaks into this top 10.

Adult occupant protection: 93%

Child occupant protection: 86%

Pedestrian protection: 70%

Safety assist: 60%

Total Euro NCAP score: 309

Read our full Audi Q2 review

Compare Audi Q2 deals


9. Audi Q5

We awarded the Q5 a five-star What Car? rating because it does well in just about every area. That includes safety, with Euro NCAP rating it highly for adult, child and pedestrian protection.

Adult occupant protection: 93%

Child occupant protection: 86%

Pedestrian protection: 73%

Safety assist: 58%

Total Euro NCAP score: 310

Read our full Audi Q5 review

Compare Audi Q5 deals


8. Mazda CX-5

The new CX-5 is based on its predecessor, so is no more practical. However, it has a much classier interior and is one of the most comfortable large SUVs around, soaking up poorly surfaced roads better than the Peugeot 5008 and Skoda Kodiaq. It also has a higher Euro NCAP score than both these rivals.

Adult occupant protection: 95%

Child occupant protection: 80%

Pedestrian protection: 78%

Safety assist: 59%

Total Euro NCAP score: 312

Read our full Mazda CX-5 review

Compare Mazda CX-5 deals

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