Could self-driving cars spell the end for the school run?

A yellow school crossing sign with blurred road background
  • One in six parents would let children travel to school in a driverless car
  • 80% of drivers plan to relax and enjoy the view from a self-driving car

Although the arrival of self-driving cars may still be some way off, motorists across Europe are already planning how to spend their newfound leisure time when they no longer have to drive.

That’s according to Ford, which has released the results of a new survey exploring how drivers will pass the time in self-driving cars.

European motorists typically spend ten days a year in their vehicles, and would prefer to use this time catching up with loved ones, enjoying the scenery or having a nap, according to the poll of 5,000 adults across Europe. 

For example, four out of five respondents (80%) said that they plan to relax and enjoy the view when in a self-driving car.

The survey also found that driverless cars may spell the end of the school run for some parents, with one in six (16%) claiming they would be happy to let their children travel to school alone in a self-driving car.

The research found that nearly three-quarters (72%) of driverless car passengers plan to use the extra leisure time to chat on the phone, while almost two-thirds (64%) will use their journey to enjoy a bite to eat.

Self-driving cars will revolutionise the way we live, as well as the way we travel.
— Thomas Lukaszewicz, manager, Automated Driving, Ford of Europe

Other respondents said that they would read books and watch films while an autonomous car takes over the driving duties.

For perhaps obvious reasons, those questioned would prefer to use a driverless car when going out for drinks.

Respondents also favour self-driving vehicles for the daily commute – an activity that people in big cities can find more stressful than their jobs, according to a previous survey by Ford.

And, perhaps reassuringly for an industry that needs to persuade drivers to hand over control of their vehicles, nearly half of those surveyed believe that driverless cars will be safer than traditional cars.

Self-driving cars to ‘revolutionise’ people’s lives

Understanding consumers’ attitudes towards driverless cars is an important focus for those involved in the sector.

Earlier this year, a University of Michigan study found that a third of Americans would be so apprehensive about travelling in a self-driving car, they would continue to watch the road.

But a report released by the Consumer Technology Association last month found that three in four consumers are excited about the potential benefits of driverless cars, and that two-thirds would like to swap their car for a fully autonomous vehicle.

Thomas Lukaszewicz, manager, Automated Driving, Ford of Europe, said: “People are really beginning to think about exactly what autonomous vehicles could mean to their day-to-day lives.

“Many of us neglect time for ourselves and for our loved ones in the face of other demands. Self-driving cars will revolutionise the way we live, as well as the way we travel.”

Ford to begin European self-driving car tests

In a statement, Ford also said that it will begin European testing of its autonomous cars in 2017.

The manufacturer has previously announced its intention to have an autonomous vehicle operating commercially in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service in the US within five years.

“We have already announced plans to use an autonomous vehicle for a ride-sharing service in the U.S. in 2021 and it is important that we extend our testing to Europe,” said Lukaszewicz.

“Rules of the road vary from country to country here, traffic signs and road layouts are different, and drivers are likely to share congested roads with cyclists.” 

Ford recently signed an agreement with Blackberry to expand the use of the developer’s software in Ford’s vehicles, as it pursues its goal of providing connected and autonomous vehicles and mobility to customers.