UK poll suggests driverless popularity is growing

Hand adjusting the rear view mirror in a car

According to new research, UK drivers are growing more confident about travelling in driverless cars.

The survey, carried out by used car website NFDA Trusted Dealers, found that half of those polled (50%) are prepared to travel in a driverless car. This figure compares favourably with the results of another poll conducted a year before, which found that just over a third (34%) of respondents were open to the idea.

While there is still a long way to go before vehicles become truly autonomous, it is encouraging to see a positive shift in the public’s attitude towards the technology
— Neil Addley, Managing Director, NFDA Trusted Dealers

The research also found that men are slightly keener on handing over control to a driverless car, with 53% of male respondents saying they are prepared to do so, compared to 46% of the females polled.

Age is also a factor when it comes to attitudes towards driverless technology. Those aged 18-24 (54%) and those aged 35-44 (54%) were most comfortable with driverless cars – a figure that dropped to just over half (52%) for 45-54-year-olds, according to the poll.

The respondents least willing to travel in a driverless car were those aged 25-34, of whom only 43% felt ready to let the software do the driving.

Drivers aged 55 and above felt more ready for autonomous travel, with almost half (49%) of them saying they would ride in a driverless car.

“While there is still a long way to go before vehicles become truly autonomous, it is encouraging to see a positive shift in the public’s attitude towards the technology,” said Neil Addley, Managing Director of NFDA Trusted Dealers.

“The direction of travel is moving towards driverless vehicles becoming a part of our everyday life and the software will make important steps towards improving safety and the well-being of road users, as well as reducing congestion.”

Driverless attitudes around the UK

The survey also highlighted some regional differences in motorists’ openness towards autonomous vehicles.

Those most eager for driverless travel can be found in the South West, where almost two-thirds of respondents (61%) claimed they were ready to travel in a driverless car.

In the East Midlands, meanwhile, only a third of motorists (33%) feel ready for driverless travel, according to the survey.

Drivers in the South East and the North East are also less confident about travelling in an autonomous vehicle, with only 42% claiming to be ready to do so. This figure increased slightly in London, with just under half (48%) of the capital’s drivers ready to hand over to driverless vehicles.

Elsewhere in the UK, approximately half of those polled said they would be open to driverless travel (Yorkshire & The Humber – 46%, Northern Ireland – 50%, Scotland – 50%, Wales – 52%, the West Midlands – 53%, East Anglia – 54% and the North West – 54%).

The findings come as the UK Government is preparing to publish its Modern Transport Bill, setting out how it aims to put the country at the forefront of driverless vehicle ownership and use.

“It takes a long time to iron out any problems in new technology and all driverless vehicles will be subject to a rigorous testing period, but it is positive news that the Government is firmly behind developing autonomous technology as its backing is essential for the UK’s motor sector,” said Addley.
“Twenty years ago I’m sure we would have been widely against the ideas of sharing our personal information online, letting smartphones track our every move and entrusting our files and documents to cloud-based systems, so it’s very likely driverless cars will continue to see the same shift in attitudes.”