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Passenger angst over driverless cars

A driverless pod to be trialled in Milton Keynes


The majority of people would be reluctant to be a passenger in a driverless car, according to a new survey carried out on behalf of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The survey of 2,002 people by ICM Unlimited found that 55% of the total would be unlikely to want to be a passenger in a driverless car, of those, 40% said they were very unlikely to want to be a passenger. Just 21% of the people surveyed said they would be happy to ride in a driverless vehicle, 24% remained undecided.

The institution said that although the UK Government and companies such as Google, Ford and Uber were all championing driverless car technology, according to its public survey, much more work was needed to convince the public of the benefits of driverless vehicles.

“The benefits of driverless vehicle technology are huge, with estimates that it could be worth as much as £51bn a year to the UK due to fewer accidents, improved productivity and increased trade,” said Institution of Mechanical Engineers head of transport and manufacturing Philippa Oldham.

“Furthermore, with 95% of all vehicle accidents being the result of human error, it makes sense to look at how we can use this new technology to help save lives.

“UK Government and industry is increasingly aware of these benefits of driverless technologies, and Government’s pledge in the Queen’s speech to ensure insurance is available to users of driverless cars is encouraging. But clearly there is still a long way to go to increase public confidence in the effectiveness and safety benefits of driverless technology.”

Oldham added that many vehicles already featured driverless technology, such as a self-parking functionality and automatic braking, and therefore public perceptions were likely to change over time. But she said that if the UK wanted to become a world leader of driverless vehicle technology it needed to get public support by championing projects such as Greenwich’s Gateway Project and the Lutz Pathfinder in Milton Keynes.

“Government and industry must work together not only to better educate and inform the public about driverless car technology but to make sure that they are developing the products that the end users want,” she added.

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