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“Autonomous driving is coming. Insurance needs to brace for change” Neil Atherton, Sales & Marketing Director, Autoglass®

As with many industries, 2020 has been a year of significant disruption for the automotive insurance industry. However, there is one trend which has not been disrupted and looks set to continue to gather pace into next year and beyond – the introduction of autonomous driving to U.K. roads. This technology is changing the automotive sector forever and the industry needs to brace itself for this change, whether that is insurers, drivers or repair companies such as ourselves.  

The Government has recently launched a consultation that could lead to the introduction of cars with Level 3 autonomous driving capabilities, meaning the vehicle can take over all driving functions under certain circumstances, as early as next year. This will have far reaching consequences for drivers and the corresponding legislation.  

The industry has been aware for some time that this new technology is coming, but for too long now there has been a lack of standardisation when it comes to managing and repairing autonomous technology. The sensors on these advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) need to be recalibrated after a windscreen replacement and in some cases of repair work to ensure they are functioning as the vehicle manufacturer intended. 

At Autoglass® we have the capability to recalibrate the sensors ourselves and have been doing so since 2016 when we were first to market with an ADAS recalibration solution. All technicians at Autoglass® are required to complete the industry leading IMI (Institute of the Motor Industry) ADAS calibration accreditation, and we have ensured that we maintain strict standards for our solution. However, many other, smaller repair shops may not have these accreditations or the knowledge of the correct procedures to follow. It is extremely dangerous if the work is carried out incorrectly as it could lead to drivers relying on technology on the roads which is not functioning properly.  

To address the issue this year Autoglass® and other key industry bodies worked with Thatcham Research to release new Insurance Industry Requirements (IIR), which aim to provide the motor insurance and repair industries with the clarity needed to ensure safe calibration. These will provide the necessary guidance across the industry, leading to more cameras, LiDAR and Radar being recalibrated correctly, and provide insurers with the peace of mind that there are consistent standards for ADAS calibration across the industry and that vehicles are able to keep their customers safe.   

With these new standards and the increase of ADAS technology, the hope is that we will see fewer incidents on UK roads. This will result in fewer insurance claims but a rise in claims costs for insurers, with each claim potentially incorporating more and more complex technology and parts. This will clearly have a big impact on the industry, and insurers also need to be aware of all the necessary requirements outlined in the IIR to ensure they are confident in the ability of the repairers in their supply chain to complete recalibrations to the necessary standard.  

While the insurance and repair industries can ready themselves for this change, more still needs to be done to educate drivers. With the introduction of most technology there is usually a settling in period where consumers get used to a product before it eventually becomes second nature. When you are relying on the technology keeping you safe while driving on a motorway, there is not the luxury of waiting for people to figure it out for themselves. There must be a focus on educating drivers on not only how to use the technology but the importance of correct recalibration following a windscreen replacement or vehicle body damage.  

Autoglass® is already committed to educating our customers on the need for recalibration and the risks involved with failing to recalibrate correctly. However, with the Government pushing ahead with its consultation into driverless vehicles more needs to be done by the automotive industry, and there is also a need for a consistent education campaign across the country. There are plenty of Government campaigns to combat speeding which are extremely important, but a campaign focused on mandating recalibration would also be of a huge benefit and potentially save lives.  

The conversation around autonomous driving technology is a not a new one, but it sometimes feels like the changes that will come with it are far away and are tomorrow’s problem. In reality, these changes are already occurring and are only going to increase, so it is up to everyone who operates in the automotive industry to prepare and work together to keep drivers safe on the roads. 

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