Driverless cars are just four years away from UK road use, but Brits still have significant concerns

Driverless cars are set to roll out on UK roads by 2021, with plans in motion to change UK insurance in response.

However, despite this many British people remain concerned about their use, with just below half – 46% – saying that they wouldn’t feel comfortable to be a passenger in a self-driving vehicle, according to the results of a survey by OpenText.

The survey, which asked 2,000 UK consumers for their views on the emerging technology, found that despite this, the majority expected driverless cars to be very widespread in the near future. 66% of those surveyed said they expected there to be more autonomous vehicles than conventional cars on UK roads within 15 years.

Automakers such as Mercedes are banking heavily on driverless cars. Image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Despite the reluctance to get in a driverless vehicle, many Brits feel that they will make roads safer.

42% said that they thought such vehicles would improve overall road safety, while just over a quarter – 27% – said that they thought that the fact that such cars would always obey traffic rules would drive such safety.

An additional 10% thought that driverless cars would provide some safety boosts, but only on motorways.

“We are on the cusp of self-driving cars becoming a reality and, in the next couple of years, the automotive industry will be transformed beyond recognition,” said Mark Bridger, vice president of sales, Northern Europe, at OpenText.

“The technological advances in AI will led to a growing level of trust amongst British citizens when it comes to autonomous vehicles, particularly in regards to improving road safety.”

Image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

While UK consumers are increasingly positive about the safety benefits of driverless vehicles, the reluctance by many to get in one suggests that far more needs to be done by the automotive industry to ensure that confidence grows.

For OpenText, safety is going to be at the heart of this.

“In this hyper-connected world, car companies, therefore, need to ensure they are not only delivering the most innovative connected technology, but that this technology is also safe and reliable in order to install the level of trust needed for mass adoption,” said Bridger.

“AI will enable automakers to analyse, adapt, and suggest solutions based on data, bringing the world of driverless cars closer to reality.”

Expert body urges governments to consider whether drunk or fatigued people should use driverless cars

Australia’s National Transport Commission (NTC) has suggested governments will soon need to make a judgement call on whether fatigued people or people under the influence of drink or drugs can use driverless cars.

In its ‘Changing driving laws to support automated vehicles’ discussion paper, the NTC said a conversation is needed to make sure the road safety benefits of automated vehicles were being fully exploited.

On drink driving the NTC said: “The NTC believes that the introduction of automated vehicles will have overall safety benefits for the road network by reducing the risk of human error. Barriers to use will reduce the uptake of automated vehicles and, therefore, the associated road safety benefits.

“One potential barrier to receiving the full benefits of automated vehicles would be to require occupants of automated vehicles, who are not driving, to comply with drink-driving laws,” reads the NTC’s report.

“Enabling people to use an automated vehicle to drive them home despite having consumed alcohol has the potential to improve road safety outcomes by reducing the incidence of drink-driving.”

Despite acknowledging that to take advantage of the benefits associated with driverless cars people under the influence of drink or drugs should be allowed to use the tech, the NTC did also admit that this decision would come with its own problems.

The major risk the NTC highlighted was that a person under the influence of drink or drugs could begin a journey in driverless mode but then take over control of the car and put other drivers at risk.

“A risk of providing exemptions is that an occupant may subsequently choose to take over driving the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If this occurred, they would become the driver of the vehicle and drink and drug driving offences would apply,” said the NTC’s paper.

“However, the road safety risks of exempting someone who may take over the driving task from the offences that prohibit driving or attempting to put a vehicle in motion while affected by alcohol or drugs, and waiting to see if they do in fact take over the driving task, may be too great. Governments will need to make a policy decision on where the overall safety benefit lies.”

On fatigue, the NTC said that while fatigue doesn’t impact driverless tech, it still needs to be considered if passengers are to become a “fallback” driver.

“Fatigue is not a relevant concept for an ADS so these provisions would not be relevant to the ADS. However, fatigue provisions should apply to a fallback-ready user for a fatigue regulated heavy vehicle,” reads the NTC statement.

“There will also be a need to consider how fatigue requirements should apply in situations where a human driver is not the fallback-ready user but will take over driving at some stage in the journey—for example, when the vehicle is leaving its operational design domain.