You might expect that the biggest issue facing the motor trade when it comes to introducing autonomous vehicles would be the limits of technology. However, a recent survey showed that it may be a lack of trust and enthusiasm on the part of drivers preventing the uptake of driverless technology.
In a survey conducted by the AA, 21,039 motorists were polled on their opinions of driverless cars. Less than a quarter (23%) of those surveyed said they would be confident in a self-guided vehicle with no driver input.
87% of respondents were concerned about the software’s ability to cope with unexpected or unusual situations on the road in the same way a human brain can, as not all the possible scenarios can be anticipated by programmers.
As well as concerns about the technology involved, a significant number of drivers simply enjoy driving and the freedom afforded by a car, they basically don’t want to relinquish control to an autonomous system. Many motorists, especially women, say they would feel lost without their car.
These findings suggest motorists still see owning and driving their own vehicle as important, despite the increasing popularity of ride sharing and carpools. Most new and used car drivers could not imagine giving up their car altogether.
Edmund King, president of the AA, has warned the motor trade not to embrace technological advances at the expense of drivers, but to bring motorists along for the journey towards automation. His advice to manufacturers is not to underestimate “the cultural importance of the car”.
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Despite concerns about fully automated vehicles, most drivers would welcome features designed to give them an easier and safer driving experience.
One example is adaptive cruise control (ACC), which adjusts a car’s speed to ensure a safe distance from the car in front is maintained. Another is automatic emergency braking (AEB) which can react to other cars or obstacles in the road ahead, preventing a shunt or collision.
These advantages in technology have the capability to make driving safer for both motorists and other road users without detracting from the experience of driving a vehicle.
However, making more systems automated or assisted, can help elderly or disabled drivers to retain their freedom by continuing to drive independently, plus also help the confidence of nervous drivers.
If the current public attitude towards driverless cars is not changed it could be a serious obstacle to advancing the technology.
Addressing driver concerns and introducing the features motorists most want, as well as offering incentives such as a reduction on the cost of an insurance policy, will be key to the success of driverless car technology.