Crash warning over driverless cars from House of Lords
The main social, behavioural and ethical questions
relating to autonomous cars remain largely unanswered, including whether they
will reduce accidents caused by human error, according to a report by the House
of Lords Science and Technology Committee.
As a result, the government should give priority to
commissioning and encouraging research studying behavioural questions and
ensure it is an integral part of any trials it funds, said the Committee.
Furthermore, the report challenged the idea that drivers
would take back control of an autonomous vehicle in an emergency. The report
said: “Given the evidence that reactions could be slow
and poor in such circumstances, it may be that the risks associated with this
are too great to tolerate.
“Autonomous vehicles have the potential to lower the
number of road fatalities. But the
eradication, or near eradication, of human error will
only be realised with full automation.”
The report said that the government had focused too heavily on research problems and testing technologies for highly
automated vehicles with inadequate effort on thinking about deployment, especially
user acceptance for road vehicles, or on the wide range of possible benefits
from connected vehicles.
It was also important, said the report, that not only
should driver behaviour be better understood but also the
behaviour of other road users and pedestrians.
A further key finding of the report was that the
government was too focused on road vehicles with the Committee arguing that
connected and autonomous vehicles cut across all sectors with the earliest
benefits likely to be in the marine and agricultural sectors.
roads sector the government should play a coordinating role in bringing
different stakeholders together, said the report. It should set up and a chair
a forum that would allow local transport authorities, which are responsible for
the majority of UK roads, to share knowledge and expertise on autonomous
vehicles and to be deployed as advisers on the direction of future trials and
international arena the government should take a leading role in a number of
areas, suggested the Lords, including the development of sets of standards to
address the ethical issues pertaining to connected and autonomous vehicles, to
govern data retention in the event of an accident and to tackle the risks
associated with cybersecurity and driverless vehicles.
Selborne, chairman of the Committee, said: “Connected and autonomous
vehicles is a fast-moving area of technology and the government has much to do,
alongside industry and other partners, to position the UK so that it can take
full advantage of the opportunities offered in different sectors.
“In order to ensure that the UK can benefit from emerging
connected and autonomous vehicle technologies the government must continue to
take action to close the engineering and digital skills gap.
“Long-term developments in connected and autonomous
vehicles have the potential to bring about transformational change to society
but these changes will only take place if society is willing to both pay for
and to adapt its behaviour to fit the technology