Public wants to steer clear of driverless cars

Image courtesty of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Image courtesty of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Driverless cars are on route to be the future for our roads – but many people don’t like the idea of letting technology take the wheel.

While experts say the new technology could save hundreds of lives, two-thirds of people would be uncomfortable travelling in a driverless car at 70mph, according to a new study by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Philippa Oldham of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Philippa Oldham of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

The news follows last week’s announcement that the Government has awarded a contract to TRL to test platoons of driverless lorries on major British roads by the end of next year.

According to the findings, younger people tend to be more accepting of the technology ―with 45% of 25-36 year olds saying they would be comfortable in a 70mph driverless car, compared to just 13% for 65-74 year olds and 8% for the over 75s.

Women tended to be more cautious about the technology, with 72% saying they would be uncomfortable compared to 60% for men.

The survey found that half of all those questioned think that humans are better drivers than computers/cars, despite the fact that 90% of UK road accidents are the result of driver error.

The survey also showed that there is a reluctance from the public to allow people who are sight-impaired to be the sole occupant of a driverless car with just 23% saying this should be allowed.

And we are even less happy with the idea of people who are intoxicated being in charge of a driverless car, with just 12% saying this would be acceptable.

Philippa Oldham, Head of Transport at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “The benefits of driverless technology are huge.

“Not only could the technology help save hundreds of lives, but there are estimates that the overall UK economic benefit could be as much as £51 billion a year due to fewer accidents, improved productivity and increased trade.

“The Government and manufacturers have big ambitions for the future of driverless cars, but there is still a long way to go in terms of public approval.

“This study shows that the majority of people would be uncomfortable being a passenger in a driverless car travelling at speed and that older people and women are particularly wary.

“Driverless technology has been touted as improving accessibility for all, but the survey showed strong reluctance for a sight-impaired person to be the sole occupant of a driverless car.

“Given the huge benefits to this technology it is vital for Government and manufacturers develop a public campaign with more demonstrations and user trials to build awareness and trust in this technology.”