Less than 10 percent of the British population would feel safe in a self-driving car, according to new research published this week. A study by gap insurance firm InsureTheGap found just nine percent of the drivers it questioned would feel comfortable in a fully self-driving autonomous vehicle, and just 12 percent of respondents would ever consider buying such a thing.
InsureTheGap’s survey of more than 2,000 Brits found a mere 16 percent thought self-driving cars were a “good idea”, while almost half (48 percent) said they “did not trust” the tech. Almost as many (43 percent) claimed they would want the ability to take back control if they got into an autonomous vehicle, while 40 percent said they enjoyed driving too much to own a self-driving car.
But the figures revealed a noticeable gender split, with men proving far more trusting of autonomous technology. Some 11 percent of the men questioned said they would feel safe in a driverless car, but that figure fell to six percent among women. Similarly, just 43 percent of men said they did not trust autonomous technology, compared with 54 percent of women.
The news follows a government announcement that the “first types of self-driving vehicles” would arrive on UK roads later this year. The government statement said Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) could “legally be defined as self-driving” and would soon arrive on UK roads.
However, the details show the systems do not work at speeds in excess of 37 mph and they only allow a vehicle to drive in a single lane when in heavy motorway traffic. As a result, a range of car industry bodies accused the government of “contributing to confusion” surrounding the definition of autonomous vehicles.
According to Matthew Avery, the director of research at insurance industry testing centre Thatcham Research, ALKS is a driver assistance system, rather than autonomous technology.
“Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) as currently proposed by the government are not automated,” he said. “They are assisted driving systems as they rely on the driver to take back control. Aside from the lack of technical capabilities, by calling ALKS automated our concern also is that the UK government is contributing to the confusion and frequent misuse of assisted driving systems that have unfortunately already led to many tragic deaths.”
Ben Wooltorton, the chief operating officer at InsuretheGap.com, said his company’s research showed motorists are still suspicious of driverless technology, and most still want to drive their car themselves.
“With the first stage of self-driving (sic) cars due on our roads by the end of the year, there’s clearly a lot of scepticism amongst drivers about their functionality and indeed desirability,” said InsureTheGap’s chief operating officer, Ben Wooltorton. “Drivers are clearly not sold on the advantages of driverless technology, and interestingly not least because many do not want to give up the controls as they enjoy driving.”