Survey reveals fear of driverless-tech - but also demand for it

Survey reveals fear of driverless-tech - but also demand for it
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, said FDR, about the arrival of autonomous cars in 1933.

Or it might have been the state of the economy to which he referred, but the point remains: were FDR about today, he’d be right up there, flag-waving for the Elon Musks of this world and their constant desire to innovate, push the market expectations further, extend the technology possibilities beyond the norm.

But public fear/anxiety/ignorance has always been the greatest barrier to scientific progress, and so it remains today.

A recent survey by Bosch sadly proves the point again: nearly a third of 2,000 YouGov Omnibus respondents said they were “wary” about using driverless car technology on the road, and yet two thirds of “future” car technology is already in production, being used by drivers on a daily basis.

Furthermore with the Brexit vote inadvertently set to make Britain driverless-tech leaders, there is no doubt the technology will soon be implemented at an increasing rate.

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More ridiculous still: when the same set of respondents were asked what gizmos they would like their car of the future to contain, the most popular requests took control away from the driver anyway...

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So on the one hand, we’re worried about driving these crazy, whacky cars of the future, but on the other, we’re mostly already using the technology, and if we’re not, it’s what we want our “cars of the future” to contain anyway. 

And note, that the industry, and thereby the public, currently defines “car of the future” as a car on the road in 2025. That’s less than 10 years away; ie, on our doorstep right now.

The most popular requests for a future car’s ability were: to maintain a safe distance from the car in front (66 per cent of respondents cited this), to take control to avoid an accident (56 per cent), to park itself (55 per cent) and to predict traffic and change route (51 per cent). 

All of these examples are currently available on cars, and all are examples of automated technology. 

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Not scary at all: easy to use, and immensely useful. BMW drivers are currently letting their cars park themselves via a clever touchscreen keyfob, Ford and Kia drivers are currently hitting a button that means the car does the parking while you control the pedals, Volvo drivers are currently letting their car do the braking and accelerating to maintain a certain distance form the car in front, Mazda drivers have long had the ability to let the car brake itself when it spots a pedestrian in front, and…well, you get the point.

More weirdly still, Bosch’s survey showed that motorists believe driverless cars will not be on our roads any time soon - 65 per cent thought it would be more than five years before they see driverless cars on UK roads, and yet trials are already booked in this year; Bosch itself will be testing automated cars in London in a couple of months and Richard Branson believes .

Let's just hope this confused bunch makes up its mind before the form on closes allowing Motorists to have their say on official government driverless car proposals.

The final leap from integrated autonomous functions on the cars we drive now, to fully autonomous cars, is termed “Level 4 autonomy” by the industry. 

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At this point, driver input will optional - you could be driven to work and back every day then whizz round country lanes in complete control at the weekends (level 5 is basically the Google pods, without even a steering wheel). 

Tesla aims to hit Level 4 in just two years. 

Note that at all times, the choice is yours whether you drive a car with a steering wheel or are driven. And if you are driven, it’s merely by the same functions and tech that you’re currently using on most cars less than five years old.

Nothing to fear, but fear itself.