Smart Transport

'Self-driving' cars: is the infrastructure ready to ensure they're safe?

Steve Nash, CEO of the IMI

With 'self-driving' cars set to be on UK roads later this year, Steve Nash, CEO of the IMI, questions whether the infrastructure is ready to ensure they’re safe

The UK is in a race … a race for zero emissions and a race for mobility solutions that don’t need a driver. 

But I fear the Government’s current impetus is not necessarily underpinned by solid infrastructure to ensure the next generation of vehicles can be maintained and repaired safely by a widely accessible network of technicians.

The IMI has already cited the serious deficit in technicians qualified to work on electric vehicles; currently we’re at just 5%.

A skilled workforce for vehicles featuring Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) is better populated – but it’s still an area of concern as a whole.

And the reality is this currently presents a much bigger risk for road users than electric vehicles. 

Connected and autonomous technologies are crucial to advancing the safety and performance of vehicles for all road users.

But it will only work if it is accurately calibrated at all times and whilst ADAS technology is certified at manufacture, we firmly believe there is room for improvement to ensure that automotive technicians repairing vehicles fully understand ADAS technology so that all systems are precisely and accurately calibrated before a vehicle goes back on the road. 

The IMI has been championing the setting of standards to ensure that technicians are appropriately qualified to work on vehicles involving ADAS as well as electrified vehicles through the IMI TechSafe banner.

We have already launched IMI ADAS Accreditation, designed and developed in collaboration with industry organisations, to help ensure technicians have the expertise to work with ADAS features in vehicles, protecting the safety of drivers when this technology is activated.

But market penetration is not yet comprehensive and that is where I fear the government’s plans could come unstuck. 

We urgently urge Government and its advisors to engage with the IMI to ensure that the repair and maintenance infrastructure is ready for autonomous motoring.

As the industry’s professional body, working with broad based sector advisory groups, we are best placed to ensure that appropriate standards are developed, adopted and, ideally, supported by appropriate regulation.

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