UAE survey reveals enthusiasm for driverless cars, but concerns about safety

Aerial view of Dubai

A new poll has found that the majority of residents in the UAE are enthusiastic about the prospect of driverless cars, but that many also have safety concerns about self-driving technology.

The survey by YouGov’s Omnibus Service questioned almost 700 people living in the UAE and found that most residents (58%) are enthusiastic about driverless cars.

More than half of those surveyed (57%) were also aware of the driverless car trials taking place in Dubai.

In addition, nearly two-thirds of UAE residents (61%) believe that driverless cars will increase mobility, allowing people to get around more easily regardless of their driving ability, found the poll.

Four out of ten respondents (43%) also think that driverless cars will help to reduce traffic congestion on the roads.

Safety concerns over driverless cars

However, the poll found that less than half of UAE residents (43%) believe they would be safe in a driverless car, compared to traditional vehicles controlled by a human driver.

And for almost three quarters of respondents (73%), the biggest concern was the risk of technology failure – for example, a car failing to stop at traffic lights. 

Other concerns identified by two-thirds of respondents (69%) included software hacking and mechanical failures. 

YouGov Senior Research Manager Anjali Chhabra said: “Driverless cars do offer a promising alternative to driving and would reduce the number of road fatalities due to human error.” 

However, members of the public are concerned about the security of autonomous vehicles and how they are likely to behave around human motorists.

These factors would “leave much room for technology experts and regulators alike to ensure self-driven cars are indeed safe in all situations”, said Chhabra.

When it comes to the infrastructure needed to support driverless cars, almost three-quarters of respondents (72%) would prefer to have separate lanes or roads for autonomous vehicles.

Drivers in the UAE are also not yet ready to get rid of manual controls in cars, with three-quarters of those questioned (76%) saying it would be important to retain these. 

YouGov infographic demonstrating attitudes to driverless cars among UAE residents

YouGov infographic demonstrating attitudes to driverless cars among UAE residents

What would UAE residents do in driverless cars?

Respondents would consider using driverless cars for many day-to-day activities, including commuting to work (42%) and travelling on the highway (44%).

However, concerns about their safety and reliability mean UAE residents would be less willing to use a driverless car to take a family member or friend to hospital (35%) in an emergency, or to let children travel alone in a driverless car (33%). 

When driverless cars do arrive in the UAE, residents expect to spend their extra leisure time in a variety of ways, with 44% saying they would speak on the phone, 39% planning to listen to the radio and 37% using the time to talk to other passengers.

Just over a third of those questioned (37%) also plan to use driverless car journeys to rest – although only a quarter of respondents (24%) say they would trust the vehicles enough to be able to sleep while in a self-driving car.

Trials of driverless cars are already underway in Dubai, with the Roads and Transport Authority undertaking autonomous tests in the city’s Business Bay District, the Dubai World Trade Center and the Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard.

Local ride booking app Careem has also announced a strategic partnership with NEXT Future Transportation to bring self-driving electric pods to the region.