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Half of drivers uncomfortable sharing roads with autonomous vehicles

More than half (55%) of UK drivers would feel uncomfortable driving on roads alongside autonomous vehicles (AVs).

The new study by the London School of Economics (LSE) and Goodyear has shown UK drivers are most nervous about sharing the roads with autonomous vehicles – the figure is significantly above the average (39%) in 10 other European countries surveyed.

However, 28% of respondents said they would be comfortable driving alongside AVs, similar to the 30% in the other 10 countries.

“Although many drivers are making increasing use of discrete automated systems within the car, such as cruise control or parking assist, a gut feeling persists that there needs to be a human driver in control of the vehicle” said Dr Chris Tennant, who investigated the findings with the department of psychological and behavioural Science at LSE. 

Carlos Cipollitti, director of the Goodyear Innovation Centre Luxembourg, said: “Our study explores how the road might evolve with the arrival of autonomous vehicles.

“Enabling a ‘social interaction’ between human drivers and AVs will be a crucial part of this process.”

The research, part of a study into the technology conducted in 11 European countries, also found that UK respondents were more uncomfortable with the idea of using (55% vs. 43% average), or driving alongside (55% vs. 39% average), a driverless car than 10 other European countries.

One of the possible factors behind this discomfort could be a greater concern with AV technology: 83% of the approximately 1,500 UK survey respondents feared that “Autonomous cars could malfunction”, compared to 71% in the 10 other countries.  

64% of UK respondents agreed that as a point of principle, humans should be in control of their vehicles.

In addition, 78% said a driverless car should have a steering wheel to allow the driver to override the system and take control of the vehicle.

Safety, however, was an area where respondents were more positive regarding the introduction of autonomous vehicles, with 41%  of respondents agreeing that, ‘most accidents are caused by human error, so autonomous vehicles would be safer,” with 22% disagreeing.

44% also felt that AVs might be better drivers, as ‘machines don’t have emotions”.

On the other hand 65% of UK respondents agree that ‘machines don’t have the common sense to interact with human drivers’ on the road, with 10% disagreeing.

Dr Tennant said: “Despite the high profile for driverless technology in the media today, it’s clear that many people still have fundamental misgivings about the technology.

“Our research identifies a number of deep-seated reservations – from the willingness to give up control, to the reliability of the technology and the vehicle’s ability to integrate into the social space that is the road.

“New pilot schemes are bringing driverless technology closer and closer to the public on the road where they will encounter, and have to deal with, these reservations.”

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