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Green light for self-drive in UK raises risk concerns in motor supply chain

The UK is the first country in the world to announce regulated guidelines for self-driving cars on motorways. This means you could see cars with Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) on British roads by the end of 2021.

Many cars already incorporate Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) - think adaptive cruise control, lane changing assistance and advanced emergency braking. But ALKS represents a significant step forward in the journey to fully autonomous vehicles.

When activated, it controls the steering, acceleration, gear selection and breaking. At slow speeds and under limited conditions, the car effectively drives itself although the driver must remain ready to take control when prompted.

What is the impact of more autonomous driving?

It is hoped that taking driver error out of the equation could help reduce traffic incidents. Driverless technology may also aid traffic management and reduce emissions, making widescale adoption inevitable. Indeed, the UK Department for Transport forecasts that by 2035 around 40% of new UK cars could have self-driving capabilities.

To achieve even basic levels of autonomy requires an immense amount of circuitry and processing power. It is no surprise that the global Autonomous Driving Component Market is anticipated to reach $66.23 billion by 2030.

However, reliability issues, rising cyber threats and high cost associated with LiDARs (lasers that help cars ‘see’) — not to mention a lack of government rules and regulations in developing regions — are raising red flags for those involved in manufacture and supply.

As cars become more sophisticated there is new scope for failure.

According to Safety Gate (RAPEX) notifications issued in 2019 and 2020 by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection, there were 32% and 22.5% more passenger car recalls than in 2018, respectively. Likewise, there were also 25% and 4% more models affected – 299 and 248 models compared to 239 in 2018.

As automation and interconnectedness increases, it will involve more technology, devices and software, creating new failure points that may lead to recalls. Pre-production testing will help but many issues may not arise until technology is subject to continuous real-life road use. While OTA (over-the-air) updates may be enough to rectify software glitches, they are unlikely to suffice in the event of full-on failure of onboard devices.

Vehicle manufacturers and their supply chains will be exposed to new types of business continuity, legal and reputational risk.

The competitive race to commercial viability could result in even more risk in terms of performance. Or more worryingly, for driver and road safety. To avoid this, some Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) now demand component suppliers cover costs and liabilities associated with a faulty part.

Against this background, we will need to see closer, more strategic co-operation between insurance companies, car manufacturers and automotive suppliers. Not to mention dealers and car distributors who may lack the expertise to handle complex issues around electronics, telematics and sensors.

It goes without saying that Automotive OEMs and suppliers must ensure they are compliant with regulations and vehicle safety measures as they change. Additionally, they must remain alert, proactive and forward thinking, to always stay one step ahead of potential problems. That means being fully prepared with clear and well tested recall plans, communications strategies, tracing processes and remedial actions in order to protect buyers, brand and bottom-line.

To learn more about the rise and fall of recall trends and to acquire knowledge about how to plan for one, download our first edition of the 2021 recall index report.

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