Self-driving or self driving?


Careless talk costs lives. That was the stark warning this week as insurers sought to button down loose language around cars which – to a greater or lesser extent – can do things all by themselves.

Insurers are notoriously fussy about words. So much so that many of them employ painstakingly punctilious specialists who live and breath the arcane art of ‘wording’.

Their output (known as ‘wordings’) forms the basis of all those crucial bits of insurance policies that no-one bothers reading.

What these ‘worders’ don’t know about words – and the peculiar and unfamiliar meanings they tend to take on in the mysterious world of insurance – is, frankly, not worth knowing.

When insurance worders look at ordinary people trying to use words, they’re apt to tut and frown and shake their heads despairingly. Marketing people are the worst. Those maniacs twist and turn words as if meaning meant nothing and selling, conversely, meant everything.

What’s bugging wordingistas mostly at the moment is the crazily inappropriate language being bandied about by the makers of more or less self-steering vehicles.

Auto-pilot. Auto-mated. Auto-nomous. These are the kinds of phrases currently in use by the likes of BMW, Nissen and Twizla to describe their so-called semi-self-driving vehicle offerings.

But insurer ‘body’ the ABI has had enough. If you tell someone, they argue, that their car is going to drive itself and then it doesn’t at some point (and they’re not driving it either), that’s a sure-fire recipe for RTA.

Thatcham Research – the people who throw cars around and smash them up to see what happens – reckon car makers need to stop sticking misleading labels like ‘Autopilot’ or ‘ProPilot’ or ‘Relax, I got this!’ on their semi-automated motors.

No good can ever come of introducing things when people aren’t ready for them – and, for precisely that reason, Thatcham say they’re concerned about motorists being offered tech they don’t know what to make of.

Ambiguous automotive nomenclature quite literally opens the door to a perilous grey area in which drivers may think its OK to be polishing their nails – or trouser-tucking the tip of their Trump-length ties – when in fact they’re supposed to be steering.

We need to be perfectly clear about this, says Thatcham’s Matt Aviary: assisted means you’re driving, automated means your not. There’s no excuse, he says, for confusing terminology like Twizla’s Autopilot, which not only isn’t all that ‘auto’ – it also only works in cars, not aeroplanes.

So next time you’re purchasing a car which you suspect may be planning to play some role in determining the speed and direction of your vehicle, be sure to ask the salesman exactly how the thing works and – in particular – when it may or may not be OK to start doing the crossword or, by way of secondary exemplage, fishing unwanted greenery from that manky-looking club sandwich over on the passenger seat.



The ABI is on the warpath. This summer it has travel insurance cheats in its sights.

False claims for the theft of high value personal items have funded many a foreign jaunt and wasted countless hours of police time in holiday destinations around the globe.

But that was then, say the ABI. Now the industry is cracking down on holiday claims cheats – and cracking down hard!

If anyone thinks they’ll get away with this kind of stunt nowadays, they’d better think again. Insurers and overseas police forces are more clued-up and vigilant today than ever before.

Impossibly sophisticated industry-wide databases whir and click around the clock, and a giant techno-forensic net is closing fast on would-be claims cheats.

Last year alone travel insurers uncovered 4,300 dishonest claims with a total value of around £5 million. Think about it: that’s over 80 cases cracked each week. Wanna try your luck now, Punk?

ABI goes on to alert potential claims cheats that particular attention will be paid to claims where “items are reported lost or stolen to the insurer very shortly before returning home, with no time to report the loss to the police.”

Would-be fraudsters reading the ABI’s advice may well conclude that perhaps it’s worth the hassle of a trip to the local police station after all. They should also remember to check their friends’ bags for incriminating evidence (see below)!

“The vast majority of claimants are honest,” the ABI’s Nick Starling proposes generously, “but the dishonest few are in for a nasty and expensive shock this summer.”

Those who get caught, he notes, will have trouble getting other kinds of insurance and have to pay more – thanks to all those databases. Their credit ratings may be dented, and they could face prosecution.

To round off this cautionary tale in agreeably tabular form, the ABI has some examples for us:

• A photographer was jailed for three months after making a false claim for £8,000 worth of camera equipment allegedly damaged on holiday.

• A holidaymaker in Cyprus reporting an alleged theft was caught out when the resort police discovered the ‘stolen’ items in her friend’s handbag.

• The ‘recovery expenses’ claimed by a traveller following a bout of malaria contracted in West Africa were in fact for services provided by the local brothel.

• A doctor was given a custodial sentence and barred by the BMA after making multiple baggage claims.


Latest statistics from the ABI show fraudulent insurance claims on the rise as the recession starts to bite.

An estimated 107,000 false claims last year (worth £730 million) constituted a 30% increase on 2007.

Household insurance fraud was most prevalent by volume, with 50,000 false claims during 2008, but motor insurance claims came out top by value ‚ totalling £360 million.

But the ABI has a warning for anyone thinking of topping up their spending money with a dodgy claim. “Insurers,” their representative body claims “are intensifying their crackdown on insurance cheats and the fraud that adds an extra £40 a year to the average premium.”

All right, we wrote this in a hurry! To read a previous, much longer and more entertaining story on the same topic, you could always try clicking here.

What our clients say about us

Sorted out everything I needed straight away, no hesitations great service.
Mr. N - Whitley Bay