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Motorists sceptical about driverless cars becoming commonplace in 20 years

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Motorists are sceptical about driverless car technology becoming commonplace on UK roads in 20 years’ time, according to the RAC.

The Government has allocated £69 million to developing connected and autonomous vehicles. However, 39% drivers think the Government should focus on improving roads ahead of autonomous vehicle technology

Research conducted with 2,194 members of the RAC Opinion Panel shows that only 5% of motorists think the Government should be prioritising financial support for the development of driverless vehicle technology in the current economic climate, though a further 17% support investment in this area but don’t see it as an immediate priority.

A further quarter (27%) claim the money would be better spent on what they regard as more pressing needs such as health and education.

Motorists are sceptical about whether the technology will become a reality with 40% believing the chances of there being one million driverless vehicles on the UK’s roads by 2037 to be ‘a bit pie in the sky'.

Whereas, 31% think there is an outside chance the numbers could reach that level in 20 years and 17% believe they won’t live long enough to see one million driverless cars on the UK’s roads. However, 12% are optimistic that it will happen.

The biggest concern among motorists about driverless cars is unequivocally the reliability of the software controlling the vehicle with 46% identifying this as their top concern.

For 27%, the thought of losing personal control over their vehicles was top of the list, and a further 10% ranked the fear of cyber-attacks leading to remote theft or corruption of data as their number-one concern.

There was an expectation from around 31% of respondents that the biggest benefit of autonomous vehicles would come from making journeys safer by eradicating driver error. The next two on the ranking list of predicted greatest positives – both on 16% – were the environment benefits brought about by reducing emissions and optimising fuel economy, and a reduction in stress and incidents of driver conflict such as road rage.

Two in five motorists (39%) believe manufacturers will progressively introduce more emi-autonomous features over time so there will not be a step change in safety benefits when full autonomy is finally achieved.

RAC’s chief engineer David Bizley said: “Very understandably motorists have a range of questions and concerns about driverless cars. There is clearly some widespread scepticism about the technology becoming prevalent and some concerns over reliability which are no doubt based on motorists’ everyday experiences of computers and the lack of resilience of the software they use.

“Finding out that around half of motorists would rather see the money the Government has allocated to encourage the development of driverless cars used to improve the condition of the roads they drive on is perhaps not a great surprise. But the £69 million allocated for driverless car support is very small when compared to the funding made available annually for the maintenance of both the strategic and local road networks.” 

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