Would you feel safe in a driverless car?

By Tim Hopkinson
Tuesday, 16 July, 2019, 09:49

More than seven in ten of us would get the jitters travelling in a car that drives itself - according to a new poll.

IAM RoadSmart, the UK's biggest independent road safety charity, asked more than 1,600 visitors to its website if they would feel ‘confident and safe travelling in a fully self-driving vehicle, where there is no driver input.’

Just over 70 per cent said they would feel ‘unsafe’ or ‘very unsafe’ with only four per cent feeling ‘very safe.’

In addition, three-quarters (75%) said they did not completely agree that the vehicle should ‘always be in ultimate control,’ - with 40 per cent strongly against it.

Graphic by Kimberley Mogg

The survey showed an overwhelming view from over 90 per cent of respondents that the driver should always be able to take over from a self-driving car should he or she need to.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: "It’s clear from the results of our survey that the motor industry has a big job ahead in convincing drivers of the safety virtues of self-driving vehicles.

'There is a lot of confusion and misinformation'

"While on paper they offer significant advantages in eliminating human error from collisions, there is a lot of confusion, misinformation and an over-abundance of terminology which has made the public distrustful of it.

"Some 44 per cent of our respondents felt poorly or very poorly informed on autonomous vehicles with only six per cent feeling very well informed. There needs to be an industry-standard on the acronyms and product names used, and car companies need to come together, alongside government, to ensure the facts out there are clearer and easy-to-understand.”

When asked if they agreed that ‘all human drivers should be banned from driving on the roads once fully autonomous vehicles are widely available,’ over 82 per cent either ‘disagreed’ or ‘strongly disagreed.’

A future where the car takes over more of the driver functions also didn’t fill those surveyed with joy.

When asked if they were ‘concerned about the progress towards a future where the vehicle takes over more and more functions previously controlled by the driver,’ two-thirds said they were ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned.’

Even current technology in new cars does not fill some of those surveyed with confidence. When asked if they would be ‘comfortable using current technology features on many cars such as adaptive cruise control, lane-assist and self-parking’ more than a quarter (27%) said they would be ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘very uncomfortable.’

However, over 50 per cent were ‘comfortable’ or ‘very comfortable’ with using them.