Britons not fans of automated cars… yet

With the British government’s surprisingly forward thinking push for automated vehicles, you’d assume that the public was behind it. However, a recent pre-trial survey across the country has found that a lot of the UK’s citizens really aren’t that fussed about the tech as of yet. Perhaps it will take the trials taking place in the next few months to change their minds.

The survey, conducted by energy comparison company, Uswitch, showed that forty per cent of Britons quizzed on autonomous vehicles wouldn’t trust them to transport them around, as they thought they would be likely to endanger the passengers or those around them. Of course, that would easily be the case at the moment, since there are very few instances where autonomous cars can operate safely or at all in some respects.

However, that’s because the technology is in its infancy and is a big part of why the UK and other countries are conducting trials of the tech in the next few months. Four cities around the UK (Bristol, Greenwich, Coventry and Milton Keynes) will have different automated vehicles used for different tasks, with researchers looking at everything from the physical functionality of the vehicles to the public’s reaction and insurance issues.

It’s a good thing too, as part of the problem some drivers had with driverless cars in the Uswitch survey, was that they weren’t sure who would be responsible in the case of an accident. When asked who they think should  be responsible, a large number suggested both the driver and the driver of the other vehicle, whereas a quarter of those quizzed said some blame at least should lie with the manufacturer. Only 18 per cent thought the “driver” of a piloted vehicle should be solely responsible.


Maybe they’d prefer to try a lap in this?

When speaking with the head of Uswitch, Rod Jones, The Telegraph heard that while driverless cars are years away, especially in terms of workable and publicly acceptable solutions, it was interesting to see that motorists were already beginning to wonder about the potential impacts to current industries like insurance.

Whatever effect it has however, will be massive financially. The driverless car industry is projected by worth over $900 billion a year by 2025 and could grow up as much as 16 per cent year on year.

That’s why so many companies are rushing to get in on the action. And they are. You can look over in the US and see Google beavering away to pioneer the technology and capture headlines, whilst other automakers like Ford and GM are pushing the envelope on self-parking, blind spot detection and autonomous emergency braking. Then you have Volvo claiming that its cars will have so many automated safety features that no one will die or be injured in or around one of its cars ever again by 2020. And then BMW has teamed up with Baidu in China, presenting another massive technological and automotive alliance.

Who captures the biggest share of that pie could be in for quite a serious cash injection.

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

    All author posts