Driverless car owners could require a licence before they take to the road to help combat safety fears, a study has suggested.
Currently no plans are in place for autonomous car owners to have any formal training before taking to the wheel, but fears have been raised after a recent crash in the US when a driverless Uber killed a pedestrian after the driver failed to notice the woman in the road and override the car’s driverless systems.
Researchers have said that a licencing scheme should be considered because of the confusion and danger surrounding when autonomous cars suddenly hand back control to motorists. This is said to be the area that poses the highest risk, with drivers taking between two and three seconds to switch to manual mode, according to the Venturer consortium.
Laws may also be enforced to prevent drivers from distracting themselves or not paying attention behind the wheel, even if the car is in autonomous mode.
The report by the Venturer consortium, which has been testing autonomous technology in Bristol and Gloucestershire, also said that insurers may have to look into how fast drivers may be able to handle an autonomous vehicle. This could mean that older drivers may have to pay higher premiums.
The consortium, made up of insurance company Axa, the University of West England (UWE), Bristol University and BAE Systems also raised the question as to whether the manufacturer or motorist would be at fault if a crash was to occur.
The UWE’s Bristol campus quoted Sarah Sharples, professor of human factors at Nottingham University: “It may also be necessary for the roll-out of highly autonomous vehicles to be accompanied with the advice, or even law, that in some or all circumstances the driver must maintain attention to the driver situation and that other activities should be minimised or avoided.”
She added that there should be “an appropriate level of competence through a driving test”.
The government has pushed for the UK to be the centre for autonomous vehicles, and has estimated that autonomous cars will be on the roads by 2021, with several closely monitored pilots currently taking place.