Majority of people ‘uncomfortable’ with idea of driverless cars, finds poll

The majority of people (66%) would feel uncomfortable travelling at 70mph in a driverless car, according to a new survey.

The poll, conducted by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and ICM Unlimited, also discovered differences along gender lines, with 35% of men saying they would be comfortable in a driverless car, compared to 20% of women.

The benefits of driverless technology are huge
— Philippa Oldham, Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Respondents’ comfort levels with driverless cars also varied with age. While 45% of 25 to 34 year olds said they would be comfortable with a driverless car, this figure dropped to 13% for 65 to 74 year olds and to just 8% for those aged over 75.

The poll also found that half of those questioned (50%) believe humans are better drivers than computers, while almost two-thirds (63%) think driverless car manufacturers should be held liable in the event of an accident that was clearly the fault of the car.

“The benefits of driverless technology are huge,” said Philippa Oldham, head of transport at IMechE. 

“Not only could the technology help save hundreds of lives, but there are estimates that the overall UK economic benefit could be as much as £51 billion a year due to fewer accidents, improved productivity and increased trade.”

However, given the low comfort levels shown by the survey, Oldham said a public awareness campaign was vital, and suggested that driverless technology should be demonstrated on city roads.

“These cars could be a particularly eye-catching colour, and their presence on busy city roads could help make people more aware of, accustomed to and accepting of the technology,” said Oldham.

The survey’s findings come on top of a recent poll by Gartner, which found that 55% of respondents would not consider riding in a fully autonomous vehicle.