IMechE releases poll surrounding driverless cars

IMechE releases poll surrounding driverless cars

According to a new opinion poll from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), nearly a third of UK adults think there will never be a complete switch to driverless cars.

The poll also revealed that 60% of people said they would always prefer to drive themselves rather than use a self-driving vehicle.

Following a similar survey run by the Institution in 2017, the poll also found that the public remains wary of driverless technology with two thirds of people uncomfortable with the idea of travelling in an autonomous car, the same level as two years ago.

More people (32%) would also like the vehicles to be restricted to driving only up to than 30 mph, up from 27% in 2017.

The poll results are said to outline the challenges car manufacturers and technology companies face in building public trust in autonomous driving systems, which was impacted last year by news of the crash of a driverless Uber vehicle in Arizona, which killed a pedestrian.

In its report on the survey, “Public Perceptions: Driverless Cars”, the Institution has called for more trials with autonomous vehicles sharing the roads so that people can see the cars in action and have a chance to ride in them.

Dr Colin Brown, Chief Executive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, explained: “Consumer confidence is essential for autonomous technology to succeed, but if anything, that confidence has waned in the last two years. During that time, there have been very few controlled trials on our roads to allow people to experience the vehicles at first hand. As engineers, we remain convinced of the need to explore the potential advantages the technology offers.

“The Government has plans for trials of self-driving cars on roads in Edinburgh and London by 2021, but we would like to see more taking place in other locations in the UK.”

The poll further revealed that attitudes towards autonomous technology varied significantly by gender, age and region. A third of men are comfortable with travelling in a driverless vehicle, whilst less than one fifth of women said the same.

It found 42% of people aged between 18 and 24 felt confident about being an occupant in a driverless car, compared 11% for those aged 75 and over. People in Scotland, Wales and the South West were also said to be more cautious about driverless technology than those in the South East and the Midlands.

The poll was carried out by ICM and surveyed 2,014 adults in the UK in July 2019.

The report “Public Perceptions: Driverless Cars” recommends:

  1. We need to see more trials with autonomous vehicles sharing the roads. This will allow people to experience these vehicles in action, validate the technology and increase public confidence. Areas such as business parks, airports, university campuses and potentially small towns could be used as controlled sites for autonomous vehicles
  2. The Government must accelerate the development of the regulatory framework for testing and use of autonomous cars, insurance liability, tax and revamped Highway Code to ensure clarity for road users in the near and longer term
  3. The industry and government should continue to collect data to assess driverless cars to show if the technology can deliver the safety, pollution and cost benefits it promises. This data could also be used to influence a shift from individual driver insurance towards insurance for the vehicle.

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