One objective of the trials currently being undertaken by the VENTURER consortium is to generate a better understanding of how drivers manage the handover process. Addressing the behavioural and physiological constraints around handover is vital to developing a proposition which meets user expectations and maximises the potential safety benefits of autonomous vehicles.
Handover (for these purposes referring principally to the transfer back to the driver of control following a period of autonomous operation) is one of the main issues to get right. Previous studies have demonstrated that the switch from autonomous mode is a key area, particularly in terms of the driver regaining lateral control of the vehicle (see the VENTURER literature review published earlier this year for more details).
Identifying the best way to manage the handover process will therefore be crucial to realising the potential of the technology. At a fundamental level, failing to achieve a safe handover process is likely to bring unacceptable safety implications. The technology cannot make driving less safe than it would be without it.
Users may also conclude that they are not comfortable with the driving experience if anticipating the next occasion on which they must resume control makes driving more difficult or stressful. The handover process has to offer a user experience that drivers want.
Drivers may also not embrace the technology if they have concerns about the liability implications of handover. Will a driver want to risk not being able to resume control at short notice and being (unfairly) held liable in the event of an incident?
OEMs, insurers and Government therefore all have an interest in understanding the parameters for handover and ensuring that an appropriate liability model is in place. As ever, risk and benefit will as ever be at the heart of the solution, with the legal and regulatory model becoming an integral part of the system.
Senior Associate, Burges Salmon LLP