Over half of passengers opposed to driverless cars

| Transport

A survey by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers gauges the reaction of people to being a passenger in a driverless car of the future.

With increased activity in the development of autonomous or driverless cars as companies such as Google and Ford develop associated technology and the UK is championing the country as being at the forefront of vehicle autonomy, the public are nonetheless skeptical of the benefits. These were the findings of a survey conducted by ICM Unlimited for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) amongst just over two thousand people.

The results showed that over half wouldn’t want to be a passenger in a driverless car and two-fifths being very unlikely to want to be a passenger. Just a fifth expressed their acceptance of riding in an autonomous car as a passenger.

According to the IMechE’s transport and manufacturing lead, Philippa Oldham, this indicates that there is clearly still a long way to go towards convincing the general public of the indisputable benefits of vehicle automation. Such benefits to the UK alone include trade, productivity and loss avoidance of over 50 billion pounds. Additionally, autonomous technology could be the basis on which lives are saved, since 95% of all accidents currently are due to driver error.

Some elements of autonomy are already here and a number of innovative projects are well underway within the UK, as described by Philippa Oldham. “Many vehicles already feature driverless technology, such as a self-parking functionality and automatic braking, so public perceptions are likely to change over time. But if we truly want the UK to become a world leader of driverless vehicle technology, we need to get the public on-side and championing the projects like Greenwich’s GATEway Project and the Lutz Pathfinder in Milton Keynes,” she said.

Getting the public on-side is a matter of cooperation and developing the right kind of products, according to Philippa. “Government and industry must work together not only to better educate and inform the public about driverless car technology but to make sure that they are developing the products that the end users want,” she concluded.

Jonathan Newell
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