Thatcham’s Online Programme Helps Bridge The Knowledge Gap

Thatcham Research has announced the launch of a new online technical awareness programme to be known as “ecademy”. Businesses working in the automotive repair sector can use ecademy to keep employees up-to-date with developments that may have a significant impact on repair processes.

“The pace of change within our industry makes it challenging for repairers on two levels,” explains Dean Lander, Head of Repair Sector Services. “Firstly, when we surveyed customers recently, specific concerns were raised about the impact of ADAS, hybrid and electric vehicles, and new materials such as carbon fibre on future training needs. Secondly, customers cited the biggest barrier for training was not being able to afford time out of the business. Ecademy is a product to help our overcome these barriers.

“In other industries, learning management systems have long-since proved an effective method for delivering training,” continues Lander. “Of course, where in-depth subject knowledge or accreditations are an essential part of a role, nothing beats the face-to-face practical training courses we offer at our Automotive Academy. But reaching a level of technical awareness in a wide range of subjects is achievable through good quality online content – a sentiment that 87 per cent of those who took part in our survey agreed with.”

Less than a quarter (22 per cent) of the companies surveyed by Thatcham Research said that they were confident that all areas of their business understand the technical issues faced by repairers.

Features within the ecademy portal include:

  • CPD-approved interactive modules in subjects such as ADAS and calibration, hybrid and electric vehicles and vehicle design and materials
  • Progress tracking via learner and manager dashboards
  • Access to additional Thatcham resources such as new vehicle releases and technical bulletins
  • Communication with other learners via an online forum.

Thatcham Research’s Peter Shaw To Step Down As Chief Executive

Thatcham Research has announced that Peter Shaw is stepping down from his role as Chief Executive with immediate effect due to ill-health.

Shaw, who has been Chief Executive as well as a Board member for seven years, has steered Thatcham Research through a period of notable change, with the organisation increasingly recognised as a global centre of excellence for assisted and automated driving assessment and testing.

He initiated a research strategy which reflected this fast pace of change in the automotive market – and more importantly, kept ahead of it with thought leadership and rapid development of safety standards.

The recruitment process to identify his successor is now underway. Strategic duties at Thatcham Research will continue to be managed by Neale Phillips and Ruth McRitchie.

The Thatcham Research Board is drawn from its 24-member insurers, who fund the essential research on vehicle safety, security, personal injury and accident damage repair.

Graham Gibson, Chief Claims Officer at Allianz Insurance and Chairman of Thatcham Research, said: “Peter has achieved so much for the business and our position in the industry since joining us.

“He has played a pivotal role in driving a new focus upon testing and influencing vehicle safety and security performance to minimise motor insurance costs. This has been hugely important due to the technological advances in active and passive car safety.

“Under Peter’s leadership, Thatcham Research has never been more relevant than it is today, and keeping our members informed and educated will remain vital.

“We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Peter who has been an outstanding Chief Executive and Board member since 2011. I’d also like to extend my gratitude to Ruth and Neale, who have maintained our strategic agenda so strongly in the interim period.”

Car Manufacturer Use of the Word ‘Autonomous’ Dangerous: Thatcham Research

Thatcham Research and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) issued an urgent call to car manufacturers and legislators for greater clarity around the capability of vehicles sold with technology that does more and more driving on behalf of motorists. The call comes in the wake of growing reports of people crashing while over-relying on technology which is not yet designed to drive the car independently.

The risks to drivers have been outlined in the new ‘Assisted and Automated Driving Definition and Assessment’ paper, which has identified dangerous grey areas associated with some driver support technologies. These include misleading names, like Autopilot and ProPilot, given to systems by car manufacturers, how and when drivers should take back control of their vehicles and systems which are designed to work in specific situations only (e.g. on motorways) but can also function anywhere.

Matthew Avery, Head of Research at Thatcham Research said, “We are starting to see real-life examples of the hazardous situations that occur when motorists expect the car to drive and function on its own. Specifically, where the technology is taking ownership of more and more of the driving task, but the motorist may not be sufficiently aware that they are still required to take back control in problematic circumstances. Fully Automated vehicles that can own the driving task from A to B, with no need for driver involvement whatsoever, won’t be available for many years to come. Until then, drivers remain criminally liable for the safe use of their cars and as such, the capability of current road vehicle technologies must not be oversold.”

Avery continues, “It begins with how systems are named and described across car manufacturer marketing materials and the driver’s handbook. Names like Autopilot or ProPilot are deeply unhelpful, as they infer the car can do a lot more than it can. Absolute clarity is needed, to help drivers understand the when and how these technologies are designed to work and that they should always remain engaged in the driving task.”

James Dalton, Director of General Insurance Policy at the ABI, said, “Insurers are major supporters of efforts to get assisted and autonomous vehicles onto the UK’s roads. Given the part human error plays in the overwhelming majority of accidents, these technologies have the potential to dramatically improve road safety. However, we are a long way from fully autonomous cars which will be able to look after all parts of a journey and in the meantime, it remains crucial that all drivers are alert and ready to take back full control at a moment’s notice. Manufacturers must be responsible in how they describe and name what their vehicles can do, and the insurance industry is ready to hold them to account on this.”