UK drivers have most reservations about autonomous vehicles, says research

Whilst driverless technology may be on its way, hesitation remains amongst UK drivers, according to extensive research released today.

The new study, from Goodyear and the London School of Economics, found that 55 per cent of the UK drivers surveyed would feel uncomfortable driving on roads alongside autonomous vehicles, significantly above the 39 per cent average in 10 other European countries. However, 28 per cent of respondents said they would be comfortable driving alongside AVs, similar to the 30 per cent in the other 10 countries.

Carlos Cipollitti, Director of the Goodyear Innovation Centre Luxembourg, comments: “Our study explores how the road might evolve with the arrival of Autonomous Vehicles. Enabling a “social interaction” between human drivers and AVs will be a crucial part of this process. As an active contributor to the debates on road safety and innovation, Goodyear is exploring some of the key areas that are shaping the future of mobility. We hope that the insights generated by this research will help all relevant stakeholders to work together towards a successful introduction of AVs.”

The research, part of a study into the technology conducted in 11 European countries, also found that UK respondents were more uncomfortable with the idea of using (55 per cent vs. 43 per cent average), or driving alongside (55 per cent vs. 39 per cent average), a driverless car than ten other European countries.

One of the possible factors behind this discomfort could be a greater concern with AV technology. 83 per cent of the approximately 1,500 UK survey respondents feared that “Autonomous cars could malfunction”, compared to 71 per cent in the ten other countries.

“Although many drivers are making increasing use of discrete automated systems within the car, such as cruise control or parking assist, nevertheless a gut feeling persists that there needs to be a human driver in control of the vehicle” said Dr. Chris Tennant, who investigated the findings with the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science at LSE.

64 per cent of UK respondents agreed that as a point of principle, humans should be in control of their vehicles. In addition, 78 per cent said a driverless car should have a steering wheel to allow the driver to override the system and take control of the vehicle.

Safety, however, was an area where respondents were more positive regarding the introduction of autonomous vehicles, with 41 per cent of respondents agreeing that, “Most accidents are caused by human error, so autonomous vehicles would be safer,” with 22 per cent disagreeing.44 per cent also felt that AVs might be better drivers, as “Machines don’t have emotions.” On the other hand 65 per cent of UK respondents agree that ‘Machines don’t have the common sense to interact with human drivers’ on the road, with 10 per cent disagreeing.

Dr Tennant, concludes, “Despite the high profile for driverless technology in the media today, it’s clear that many people still have fundamental misgivings about the technology. Our research identifies a number of deep-seated reservations – from the willingness to give up control, to the reliability of the technology and the vehicle’s ability to integrate into the social space that is the road.”

New pilot schemes are bringing driverless technology closer and closer to the public on the road where they will encounter, and have to deal with, these reservations”.

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