Young people more likely to embrace autonomous vehicle technology

12.00 | 25 November 2015 | | 3 comments

A new study by the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) suggests that young people are more likely to embrace autonomous vehicles.

In the Traveller Needs Study – conducted with the support of the Department for Transport (DfT), the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and Innovate UK – 39% of respondents said they would consider using a self-driving vehicle, rising to as high as 62% among young professionals.

The study – which comprised 10,000 online questionnaire respondents, 50 company interviews, and 100 expert interviews – looked at transport users of all types, revealing a ‘much higher than expected’ potential acceptance of autonomous technology.

Of those described in the report as ‘petrol heads’ only 25% were excited by autonomous technology, while among those described as ‘car dependent’, 42% would consider a self-driving vehicle.

The study revealed increasingly progressive attitudes among the UK’s transport users, feeding into attitudes towards autonomous vehicles. 54% of respondents consider a smartphone essential for their journey, while 57% would share personal data in order to improve their journey.

In October, an £11 million research programme was launched to help further the development of fully autonomous cars capable of operating safely on the UK’s roads while the DfT has developed the world’s first code of practice to pave the way for driverless cars to be tested in the UK.

TSC is currently working on the LUTZ Pathfinder project (pictured), which will oversee the trial of three automated pods within Milton Keynes city centre, and assess their feasibility from both a technological and societal point of view.

Steve Yianni, CEO of TSC, said: “Drivers who use autonomous features could benefit from additional productive time, reduced fatigue and decreased congestion – not to mention the increased safety of self-drive technology.

“We think these figures demonstrate a growing awareness of these benefits.”   

Commenting on the report’s findings, Nick Rawlings, editor of Road Safety News, said: “This is an interesting study.

“When we run a news piece about autonomous vehicles we invariably get a strong, largely adverse, reaction from our readers in the ensuing discussion thread.

“I wonder if this is because they are enthusiastic drivers, and perhaps not in the ‘young professionals’ category?

“Perhaps it is not at all surprising that the younger generation, who have grown up with technology as part of their everyday lives since a very young age, are less sceptical and more willing to embrace the concept of autonomous vehicles.”


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    During a now mercifully rare drive into and out of central London a week ago, in heavy traffic I found myself having no more than a few inches clearance on either side from buses, trucks and other vehicles – at 30mph, stop-start and often tailgated. For that reason I repeat my previous comments, that no software or hardware known to man, now or in the foreseeable future will be able to avoid collisions in those circumstances.

    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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    The item depicted looks like a refugee from a fairground ride. Perhaps if younger generations designed it, it might sport ten foot articulate legs and canons.

    Youth ever seeks change and challenge, it’s in the nature of the beast. It is the youth that is encouraged to join armed forces. Microchips have become acceptable due to their abilities, and that their considerable reliability means mere mortals need not understand their construction or repair/replacement. It’s when they go wrong we are left stranded – or crashed. It’s all down to how much control of our lives we are willing to hand over to machines. A washing machine is a boon, and if it fails, there’s always a Launderette. Autonomous travel on the roads? No thanks.

    Derek Reynolds, Salop.
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    I think that the reason that autonomous vehicles get a strong, adverse reaction is because the safety claims made for them are no more than wishful thinking and not based on any sound science.

    Autonomous cars will have to take exactly the same gambles on the future state of the system that human drivers do and occasionally those gambles will not pay off. The job of any driver, human or synthetic is to be able to predict with 100% accuracy what is going to happen next. Sadly though this is an utterly impossible task so instead a driver has to make a probability/possibility trade-off where they gamble on the million and one things that can possibly happen next against the one or two things that will probably happen next. If humans are forced into taking this gamble and as a result they occasionally crash then the autonomous vehicle that takes the same gamble is equally likely to end up in trouble.

    The safety claims for autonomous vehicles all stem from the same misunderstanding that if everybody followed the rules then everybody would be safe. Although this is very easy to believe it is in fact a demonstrably false premise. Anybody that remembers industrial actions where staff ‘worked to rule’ would also remember that rather than a smooth and efficient operation the whole plot descended rapidly into chaos. Autonomous vehicles will be no different in this regard.

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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