There’s no clear indication yet as to how UK citizens feel about fully driverless vehicles, with many unsure about whether they would use one. However, many of those who say they would have suggested an Uber-style app would be ideal to book a driverless car.
That’s according to a new survey conducted by researchers at Cambridge University’s Engineering Department and the Department of Psychology. The report was commissioned by UK Autodrive, a consortium of technology and automotive businesses, local authorities and academic institutions who are working together on a three-year UK trial of self-driving vehicle and connected car technologies.
The researchers surveyed 2,850 UK citizens, and asked them whether they would use a fully driverless vehicle. Only 10 percent said they definitely would, while 26 percent said they probably would. Fifteen percent said they would definitely not, and under a fifth (18 percent) said they probably wouldn’t, leaving nearly a third who said they weren’t sure.
Citizens remain scepical
Although only a small proportion of respondents completely opposed the idea of driverless vehicles, many expressed some reservations about the ability of the technology to replace the driver completely.
“In response to questions about what levels of control they would like to retain, 85 percent expressed a desire to retain some control over the choice of route, and 74 percent wanted to retain an option to drive manually,” the report revealed.
When asked what the respondents would use a driverless vehicle for, there was again a wide range of views which included shopping (23 percent), commuting (22 percent), visiting friends (21 percent) and drinking (15 percent).
The most popular uses of recovered time, meanwhile, were viewing scenery (55 percent), responding to emails (37 percent), making phone calls (35 percent), eating or drinking (35 percent), socializing (33 percent) and doing nothing (24 percent).
Driving the sharing economy
When questioned about operations and ownership, a slight majority of respondents saw greater potential for self-driving vehicles in the realm of public or shared transport systems than in the traditional private ownership arrangement.
The preferred means of booking access to a driverless car if it was part of a shared transport system was through a smartphone app (45 percent), with home telephone (27 percent) and conventional hailing at a public bus stop (23 percent).
Navigating problems ahead
The report revealed that UK citizens were open-minded about autonomous vehicles, but Clive Longbottom, analyst at IT advisory company Quocirca believes this will change when the vehicles become more widely used.
“I think some problems will come out eventually,” he said.
“An autonomous vehicle has to be tracked at all times; the amount of personally identifiable data that is being created and stored will be high. When there are millions of such vehicles, there are bound to be failures in the system, and passengers will be injured or killed – who is then responsible? The owner for not having any control or not checkcing the condition of the control systems on a regular basis, or the car manufacturer,” he questioned.
This, Longbottom explained, was just one of the many questions being posed around autonomous cars, as there are so many implications from both a legal and insurance perspective.
“I think that respondents are possibly more in the Jetsons jetpack mentality at the moment: they want an autonomous vehicle because it sounds cool. The reality may be different; even if it is a pretty good experience, once the idea takes off and becomes mainstream, it is no longer ‘cool’ – just commonplace,” he said.