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.