Report on Motoring 2016

When will we see driverless cars?

5.1 When will we see driverless cars?

In the Queen’s Speech in May 2016, the Conservative Government set out its plans for a Modern Transport Bill, which will promote investment in driverless car technology and encourage insurers to develop policies appropriate for autonomous vehicles28.

This is the latest demonstration of the UK’s commitment to be a pioneer in the introduction of driverless vehicles: ministers say they think it is possible that by 2020, consumers will be able to buy cars which ‘park on their own and pilot themselves on motorways’29. Tests will begin on the strategic road network in 201730.

There is quite a high level of concern about driverless cars being on the roads: 62% of motorists say they are scared of the prospect.
This just shows what needs to be done in terms of changing people’s views – but it is worth pointing out that few people have qualms about jumping on a plane, which is flown – at least part of the way – autonomously.

- Mikes Hawes, Chief Executive, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders

While there has been a significant degree of news coverage both of these plans and of pilot schemes for fully autonomous vehicles currently underway in the United States, the 2016 Report on Motoring found that UK drivers are far less bullish when it comes to predictions of when such vehicles will actually appear on our roads.

Less than a quarter (24%) of motorists think that the first driverless cars will be available for consumers to buy before the end of the current decade. A third (34%) expect them to hit the market in the 2020s while a further 14% think such vehicles won’t be available until between 2030 and 2050.

On average, drivers think that 2029 is when driverless cars will first become available in showrooms to buy – and a small minority (6%) think we will never see them on our roads.

The Report also asked motorists when they expect driverless vehicles to outnumber conventional models on our roads: a quarter (25%) say they do not know, while a significant proportion (17%) think this will never happen.

Fewer than one in 10 drivers (8%) think this tipping point will occur before 2030 while half (49%) expect it to take place before 2070.


Nick Walker, RAC Telematics Managing Director, said:

“With the prospect of driverless cars being commonplace some way off it would be wrong to ignore the immediate benefits of the connected car and the ability to offer drivers and fleet managers the ability to optimise their vehicle’s operation, economy and maintenance.

The RAC is at the forefront of developing the technological solutions to work with the multiplicity of motor manufacturers’ software and engine management systems to deliver tangible benefits in terms of safety, convenience and cost savings for business customers and this technology will soon be available for private drivers.”


34% of drivers expect driverless cars will become available for consumers to buy in the 2020s


21% of motorists expect driverless vehicles to outnumber conventional models by 2040


The differences in opinion over when people expect to see driverless cars on the roads are quite striking. I think people forget what the lifetime of the average car actually is.
If you have a car with a typical life cycle of 12 years, and add in the fact that of those changing their car each year three-quarters buy a used rather than a new car, you can see that it could take a lot longer for driverless cars to become the norm. And then there will be the cost considerations.

- Sarah Sillars, Chief Executive, IAM RoadSmart