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Executive summary

This Report explores in detail the technological changes seen over the past 20 years in terms of safety, security, convenience and efficiency. It looks at how technology has affected our driving experience, the way we drive and how we draw on the technology available to us.

There are a series of key findings in the Report:

85% of motorists think the complexity of cars today means people need to be shown how to use in-car technology properly.

Technology may have made driving safer, but 59% of motorists feel that reliance on in-car technology makes people less safe drivers and only 37% believe technology has had a positive effect in making people more safe drivers. There is still a large degree of uncertainty over technological items that are fitted as standard by law, for example ABS and immobilisers.

The biggest technological changes over 20 years according to motorists

Do-it-yourself servicing has declined dramatically in the last 20 years with the vast majority of cars serviced by professionals.Today only 11% of motorists service their own car or have it done by a friend/relative, compared to 38% in 1988.

Technical advances have fallen into two camps: 'active' and 'passive'. 'Active' technologies such as SatNav and in-car entertainment are not always positive, as they can cause driver distraction, while 'passive' technologies such as ABS are undervalued as they are not fully understood or deemed less important due to their automatic functionality.

Despite improvements in vehicle security - technology, the number of motorists who have had their cars vandalised is high, with more than one in five reporting vandalism towards their car in the last three years.

The latest advances in technology to manage traffic are not always fully understood by motorists, meaning their full effectiveness cannot be realised. This is particularly the case with Active Traffic Management (ATM). When this was broken down by region, respondents in the West Midlands and London were more supportive of ATM at 74% and 63% respectively, suggesting that those areas that have direct experience of ATM on a regular basis probably see the benefits more than those that have not.

What are the biggest changes in the past 20 years in cars? (motorists chose up to three)

Top three answers (in order)

  • Improved safety
  • Improvements in technology
  • Cars have become more reliable

What are the best in-car technological innovations in the past 20 years? (motorists chose up to three)

Top three answers (in order)

  • Airbags
  • Seatbelts
  • ABS

What needs to happen now to reduce our car dependency 20 years from now? (motorists chose up to three)

Top three answers (in order)

  • Improvement of investment in public transport
  • Investment in alternative fuels / bio-fuels / electric
  • Safer roads for cycle and pedestrian usage

The car knows so much more about itself, the driver and the journey than it ever used to. It has made the process of driving a whole lot safer, because you can trust the car to deal with other stuff while you concentrate on getting from A to B.

Anthony, motorist from Hertfordshire

How has technology changed over the past 20 years?