The Report also highlights that there is still a considerable amount of work to do to convince the public that the benefits of driverless vehicles outweigh the perceived risks.
There is a high and growing level of agreement (62% against 52% in 2015) that driverless cars will improve mobility for older and disabled people. But less than three in 10 (27%) think the introduction of driverless vehicles will make our roads safer (no change on last year). Experts regard improved safety as one of the primary benefits of driverless cars because driver error would become a thing of the past. However, the reputation of driverless cars has been severely dented by a recent fatal accident involving a driverless car in the US31.
Generally, there is a great deal of uncertainty and suspicion regarding new technologies in cars that affect drivers and their behaviour. More than two-thirds (69%) say they are opposed to any new technology that has the potential to distract drivers, although this is down significantly from 75% last year. Just over half (51%) of motorists feel that many of the new technologies associated with autonomous vehicles will lead to complacency among drivers and therefore more accidents, but again this proportion has declined (from 59%) in the last 12 months. And almost half of motorists (49%) say they are not looking forward to travelling in a driverless car, while only a quarter (25%) say they are.
Motorists over the age of 65 are least likely to be enthusiastic about this prospect. Just 14% of this group say they are looking forward to using a driverless car, compared with 33% of those aged between 25 and 44. This is perhaps a reflection of younger generations being more accustomed to the fast pace of technological change.
Views on new technology
27% agree driverless cars will make our roads safer
66% of motorists are concerned about the risk of driverless car computers being 'hacked'
70% of motorists says they are concerned about the reliability of the computer software driverless cars will use
In terms of other potential benefits, only a third (33%) of all motorists think that the adoption of driverless technology will be better for the environment and even fewer (28%) expect autonomous vehicles to ease the severity of traffic jams.
However, a significant proportion of motorists questioned on these two topics said they were unsure as to what effects driverless cars would actually have. Just one in five (21%) think driverless technology will lead to shorter journey times against 35% who do not and a further 35% who are not sure. A third of people (34%) think fewer people will use public transport when driverless cars are common (against 22% who disagree with this assertion) and 31% think fewer people will own their own car when driverless vehicles enter the mainstream (against 23% who don’t).
The Government aspires for the UK to be a leader in connected and autonomous vehicles and for the economy to benefit from them.
A successful home market for such vehicles requires potential purchasers who are well informed, understand the user benefits, and are enthusiastic about the prospect of having a driverless car at their disposal.
The number of those who responded to this series of questions by saying that they did not know the answer suggests that in parallel with the technology and legislative programmes needed to pave the way for driverless cars, there is a need for a communications programme that informs and enthuses the motoring public.
The Report found that this lack of understanding also translates into a high level of concern about the potential risks of driverless technology. Seven in 10 motorists (70%) say they are worried about the reliability of the software that such cars will use, while two-thirds (66%) say they fear that the computer systems used by driverless cars could be hacked.