Motorists sceptical driverless cars will become commonplace: RAC

12.00 | 7 July 2017 | | 6 comments

The majority of motorists doubt whether ‘driverless cars’ will become commonplace in the next 20 years, according to a survey conducted by the RAC.

In the survey of almost 2,200 members of the RAC Opinion Panel, just 5% of respondents agreed that Government should be prioritising financial support for the development of driverless vehicle technology in the current economic climate. A further 17% support investment in this area, but don’t see it as an immediate priority. 

39% of respondents would prefer to see funds redirected to improving the existing road infrastructure, and a further 27% said the money would be better spent on what they regard as ‘more pressing needs’ such as health and education.

The survey suggests motorists are sceptical about whether the technology will become a reality, with 40% of respondents believing the chances of there being one million driverless vehicles on the UK’s roads by 2037 to be ‘a bit pie in the sky’. Only 12% are optimistic this will happen.

The biggest concern among motorists about driverless cars is the reliability of the software controlling the vehicle with almost half (46%) of those surveyed identifying this as their top concern.

For more than a quarter (27%), the thought of losing personal control over their vehicle was top of the list, and a further 10% ranked the fear of cyber-attacks leading to remote theft or corruption of data as their number-one concern.

A third (31%) of respondents believe that autonomous vehicles will make journeys safer by eradicating driver error.

David Bizley, RAC chief engineer, said: “There is clearly widespread scepticism about the technology becoming prevalent and some concerns over reliability which are no doubt based on motorists’ everyday experiences of computers and the lack of resilience of the software they use.

“Finding out that around half of motorists would rather see the money the Government has allocated to the development of driverless cars used to improve the condition of the roads they drive on is perhaps not a great surprise.”

Despite the scepticism about fully autonomous vehicles, the survey suggests motorists remain enthusiastic about driver assistance technologies.

Nearly half (45%) of those surveyed said they were attracted by adaptive cruise control – technology that automatically brakes and accelerates the vehicle when trying to maintain a pre-set cruising speed.

More than a third (36%) approved of self-parking systems and 34% were attracted by automatic emergency braking, a feature that some road safety campaigners, including the RAC, would like to see as standard on all new vehicles.

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    If we assume 12,000 miles per vehicle-year — the generally accepted figure — the IIHS number works out to 28 driver fatalities per 12 billion miles. That’s one driver fatality for every 428 million miles driven.

    Suddenly, the Autopilot Model S number that Tesla was bragging about last June—one death in 130 million miles—looks downright terrible.

    By the IIHS yardstick, the Autopilot Tesla is more than three times as dangerous as a typical passenger vehicle, even with all the advantages cited above.

    Using the latest Autopilot numbers—2 driver fatalities, 222 million miles driven—the fatality rate is one per 111 million miles. That’s almost four times worse than IIHS’s average for passenger cars.

    Jaroslav SK
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    There are comments in this thread alleging cases in which “driverless cars” had crashes/near/misses/got speeding tickets.

    I could point people to the numerous recorded crashes/casualties resulting from legally qualified human driven vehicles.

    I guess which ever system is shown to be safer (less collisions per mile driven?) will win the day. However politics/economics may win the day as usual……

    Nick, Lancashire
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    – A Tesla on autopilot mode once received a speeding ticket for following traffic. (traffic on this portion of road in the US was travelling at 75mph in a 60mph limit)

    – There have been numerous crashes or near-misses in a city where Uber were testing driverless cars (illegally) where the cars would just ignore red lights.

    As you can tell, these cars are just like humans already!

    David Weston
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    Supposing those who programme these car in terms of ‘behaviour’ on the road, are themselves poorly behaved on the road? Couldn’t the bad habits of humans we’re trying to eradicate, simply end up instilled in the vehicles and we’re no further on? Perhaps driverless cars in the UK should have to take some sort of driving test just to make sure they’re up to the job? (I’m not joking by the way)

    Hugh Jones
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    The term “driverless cars” could cover a multitude of different interpretations. Perhaps “levels of automation” would be better. Here is a convenient reference to those levels of automated driving :-

    Pat, Wales
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    I have yet to meet anyone who is sprinting to a showroom to be the first in the queue for an autonomous vehicle. The fully autonomous vehicle is still quite a long way in the future, and that is the one that appeals to the rural elderly, or others who are no longer capable of driving, for example.

    The alleged benefits of reduced congestion are pie-in-the-sky. Once pedestrians become wise to the fact that these things will slam on the brakes to avoid hitting them, they’ll be crossing the road anywhere they like in city centres and traffic will be therefore be reduced to gridlock. Drivers will get their vehicle to keep driving around the block if a parking space is not available, so that too will increase traffic.

    As for vehicles that park themselves, I have heard that manufacturers are rushing to develop systems to safely extract cars from spaces. Inept drivers are now able to get into tight spaces with their clever cars, but lack the ability to get out of the space. The makers are finding that getting safely out of a space and into a flow of traffic is far more difficult than getting a car into a space.

    Now that it has been confirmed that makers will accept liability, and not insurers, then what maker will allow their vehicle to temporarily exceed the speed limit to perhaps overtake a tractor? Only the brave need to step forward.

    Autonomous vehicles are not worthy of Government money.

    David, Suffolk
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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