Motor Insurance

UK car crashes could 'plunge by a quarter' with new tech - are you ready for auto driving?

New technology that would feature in driverless cars could prevent 25% of crashes.

Car crashes in the UK could drop by nearly 25% if all vehicles were fitted with new detection systems, a study suggests.

The Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) is already being rolled out in many new models, but it could prevent 19,000 (23.8%) crashes if installed in all vehicles.

ADAS could be described as somewhere between a standard car and a driverless one. It recognises pedestrians, traffic signs and blind spots and alerts drivers if they are veering out of their lane.

It also has the capability to pump brakes automatically to prevent an accident - technology known as Automatic Emergency Breaking (AEB).

The automations are becoming more common on the roads with 92.7% of new vehicles in the US in 2018 having at least one form of ADAS, according to the American Automobile Association.

The EU has also decided all vehicles registered from 2022 should have AEB, the University of Limerick, which helped carry out the study, says.

AEB stopped 28% of crashes at intersections, 27.7% of crashes into the rear of vehicles and 28.4% of accidents with pedestrians, according to data analysts at Motion-S, and Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software at University of Limerick.

Researchers looked at publicly-available road safety reports for the UK from 2019 to estimate crashes could plummet by 18,925.

However, the technology isn't fool-proof, with adverse weather impacting its effectiveness.

Lead author Leandro Masello, of Motion-S, said: “The driving environment affects vehicle dynamics and sensor capabilities. A system that suddenly brakes to avoid a crash will perform better in dry weather conditions than in adverse conditions like heavy rain and ice, which reduce tyre traction and can cause the vehicle to skid.

“Similarly, inclement weather also impairs the sensors’ ability to perceive the environment accurately. For example, a snowstorm could obstruct the camera vision system or cover lane boundaries."

While driverless cars could significantly reduce vehicle crashes, software is still a work in progress, particularly when it comes to hazards that don’t have hard and fast rules.

Melanie Mitchell, computer scientist and professor of complexity at the Santa Fe Institute, told the Guardian: “It’s a challenge to try to give AI systems common sense, because we don’t even know how it works in ourselves.

"I think if every car was a self-driving car, and the roads were all mapped perfectly, and there were no pedestrians around, then self-driving cars would be very reliable and trustworthy.

“It’s just that there’s this whole ecosystem of humans and other cars driven by humans that AI just doesn’t have the intelligence yet to deal with.”

In the US, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation into driverless taxi firm Cruise after three of its vehicles were rear-ended after braking suddenly. A safety driver was in the car in each of the incidents.

It has also received multiple reports of cars becoming stranded and blocking roads. There was no onboard human supervision in these incidents, the the NHTSA report said.

Cruise is a San Fransisco-based robotaxi service backed by General Motors. It is also expanding into two other cities.

The NHTSA’s investigation summary, published on December 12 2022, said: “Although the two types of incidents appear to be distinct, they each result in the Cruise vehicles becoming unexpected roadway obstacles.

“This may introduce multiple potential hazards such as a collision with a Cruise vehicle, risk to a stranded passenger exiting an immobilised Cruise vehicle, or obstruction of other traffic including emergency vehicles.”

In a statement, Drew Pusateri, a spokesperson for Cruise, said: “Cruise’s safety record is publicly reported and includes having driven nearly 700,000 fully autonomous miles in an extremely complex urban environment with zero life-threatening injuries or fatalities.

“This is against the backdrop of over 40,000 deaths each year on American roads. There’s always a balance between healthy regulatory scrutiny and the innovation we desperately need to save lives, which is why we’ll continue to fully cooperate with NHTSA or any regulator in achieving that shared goal.”

The Association of British Insurers is working closely with car manufacturers to ensure the safety of driverless cars, and that car insurance. providers are ready.

On its website, the ABI said: "Automated driving has the potential to be a road safety revolution, but first, regulators will need to set clear standards for how the technology is used and what back-up systems will be in place to protect road users against system failure."

Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.


Car Insurance

  • You could save up to £504*
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars**
  • Quotes from 100+ providers

Motor Insurance Reviews

NimbleFins Newsletter

Get deals, tips, news, and more!