Driverless cars will make the roads safer, say two-thirds of Brits

One of the key challenges for autonomous car makers over the next few years will be to persuade consumers of the benefits offered by driverless cars.

So manufacturers will no doubt be pleased to hear about new research showing that more than two-thirds of Brits say they would feel safe in the seat of a driverless car.

Taking to the driving seat may be another matter, however, as 49% of those questioned worried that they would not feel safe behind the wheel of a driverless vehicle.

And a fear of technological innovation may hold back some drivers for good, with 10% of women claiming they would ‘never get in one’, as they do not believe autonomous cars can be safer than existing manual models, found the survey. 

The survey also found that driverless car technologies are forecast to be more popular than a number of other innovations, including augmented reality – the technology behind leading smartphone game Pokemon Go.

Insurance company Axa carried out the research among 2,000 British adults to gauge their opinions on their feelings towards driverless cars. The insurer is a partner in three UK Government-funded driverless car projects.

Attitudes to driverless car technology

Survey respondents believe that driverless cars will be among the top five next big technological innovations – beating augmented reality into sixth place.

Yet these attitudes towards driverless cars come despite Brits' apparent love-hate relationship with technological progress.

For example, more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed claimed that they prefer to drive manually than to switch to cruise control when on the road, according to Axa.

Away from their cars, two-thirds of respondents also opt to shop in a supermarket instead of online, and more than half still claim to wash up by hand, rather than using a dishwasher.

The technologies predicted to be most popular in the future

Survey respondents, asked to predict the ‘next big thing’ for technological innovation, chose the following technologies:

1. Wearables technology (43%)

2. 3D printing (33%)

3. Robots (30%)

4. Virtual reality (30%)

5. Driverless cars (29%)

6. Augmented reality (26%)

7. Space travel (21%)

8. Nanotechnology (21%)

9. Hover boards (16%)

10. Smart cities (14%)

In addition to the potential safety improvements offered by driverless cars, the survey found that:

  • More than a third of respondents (36%) believe that driverless cars will take the stress out of driving
  • Over a quarter of those surveyed (26%) think driverless cars will reduce in-car disagreements
  • In a boost for manufacturers, almost a third of respondents (32%) would like to buy a driverless car.

The research also suggested that driverless cars may help us to avoid getting lost on the roads, with almost a quarter of men surveyed (24%) believing that they would never get lost again.

Commenting on the research’s findings, Axa Insurance’s Technical Director, David Williams, said: “Over 90 per cent of all motor accidents are caused by human error, and technological progress lets us improve safety. It’s thought that the reduction of accidents with driverless cars could be as much as 50 per cent and that can only be good news for road safety.

“Additionally, they will reduce congestion and provide alternative transport for those currently unable to drive.”

At the same time, Axa understands some people's scepticism about the benefits of driverless cars. “Lack of information often stokes people’s fears – and a healthy dose of scepticism is to be expected,” said Williams. “Indeed in 1825 some people were so opposed to train travel that they said that it would be impossible to travel over 12mph without having ‘the air sucked out of your lungs’.”