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More than half of UK drivers ‘uncomfortable’ with self-driving cars

Tuesday 18th October 2016

Only a quarter of drivers (25%) would feel comfortable using an autonomous vehicle, according to the results of a new survey carried out by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

In the LSE study, published on 12 October,  just 28% of drivers interviewed said they would feel comfortable driving alongside a driverless car. Conversely, 55% of the 1,500 respondents said they would feel uncomfortable both using an autonomous vehicle and driving alongside one.

64% of respondents said there needs to be a human driver in control of the vehicle, agreeing that ‘as a point of principle, humans should be in control of their vehicles’. Moreover, 85% agreed that ‘autonomous vehicles could malfunction’ and 78% said they should have a steering wheel.

The findings are part of a wide-reaching research project by the LSE and the tyre manufacturer Goodyear, to investigate how drivers feel about interacting with autonomous vehicles.

The current Goodyear-LSE study builds on a 2015 research project that explored how drivers carry out and experience interactions with others on the road.

Drawing on a combination of focus groups and an online survey it concludes that ‘successful introduction of autonomous vehicles will depend on understanding and addressing the complex attitudes that define the public’s view of this new technology’.

For those who do feel at ease with self-driving vehicles, safety is a key factor. 44% agreed that ‘machines don’t have emotions so they might be better drivers than humans’, while 41% agreed that ‘most accidents are caused by human error, so autonomous vehicles will be safer’.

The LSE says the respondents least open to the concept of autonomous vehicles are those who, on average, find co-operating with other drivers easier, and have ‘lower optimism’ about technology.

In contrast, those more open to the concept tend, on average, to find driving more stressful and are more technologically optimistic, perhaps seeing the technology as ‘easier agents to deal with than other human drivers’.

Dr. Chris Tennant, LSE, said: “Autonomous vehicles are not simply another new technology. They are a technology that is gradually emerging into an intensely social space. It is therefore no surprise that a wide range of factors influence the public’s levels of openness towards them.”

Carlos Cipollitti, director of the Goodyear Innovation Centre, added: “I think that we can all agree that autonomous vehicles are coming. But the speed and impact remain an unknown factor for most drivers.

“Understanding how drivers experience the road today and how they feel autonomous vehicles should fit into it will therefore be key to ensuring their successful introduction.”

 

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