UK public open-minded about self-driving vehicles

According to a survey of 2,850 UK residents carried out as part of the UK Autodrive programme, the public is highly familiar with the concept of driverless cars, but have not yet formed solid opinions about the technology.

The survey found that 35% of those surveyed said they would use a fully self-driving vehicle (without a driver or steering wheel) once one was available to them. Only 15% of the respondents expressed strong opposition to the idea.

Nevertheless, some reticence was expressed when it came to the ability of technology to replace human involvement completely. In response to questions about what levels of control they would like to retain, 85% expressed a desire to retain some control over the choice of route, and 74% wanted to retain an option to drive manually.

There was also a wide range of views expressed in terms of when people would want to use a self-driving vehicle, with 23% of respondents saying that they would use one for shopping excursions, followed by commuting (22%), social/leisure travel (22%), and 15% who would be mainly interested in using self-driving vehicles after drinking alcohol.

A large majority (80%) of those surveyed felt that self-driving vehicles would assist people with impairments or disabilities, but the results were far more varied when it came to such vehicles being used by other members of the public.

When asked if they would send their children to school in a self-driving vehicle, only 19% of respondents said they would do so, with 59% either opposed or strongly opposed to the idea.

UK Autodrive Project director Tim Armitage said: “The survey results give some fascinating insights into what the UK public currently think about self-driving vehicles, and we will continue to dig deeper into this as the UK Autodrive project continues.”

Following on from the first wave of public attitudes research, UK Autodrive will now stage a series of qualitative workshops in locations across the UK to further explore the reasons behind some of the opinions expressed and to investigate ways in which attitudes towards self-driving vehicle technology might be further improved in the future.

A second nationwide survey will also be conducted towards the end of the project to measure any changes in attitude that may have occurred.