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Consumers wary of driverless cars

News, 25 May 2016

DETROIT/BIRMINGHAM: Driverless car technology is often cited as the future for the auto industry, but automakers may face a hard time trying to persuade consumers on both sides of the Atlantic to accept them, according to two new surveys.

A study from the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute found nearly all (94.5%) of the 618 participants in its survey wanted a steering wheel plus gas and brake pedals in self-driving cars. This applied to all age groups and both men and women.

The survey, a follow-up to a similar exercise the University of Michigan carried out last year, confirmed ongoing misgivings among American drivers, 24/7 Wall St reported.

For example, in this year's poll, more than 45% of US consumers preferred no self-driving at all, while 39% preferred partial self-driving and just 15.5% said they would prefer completely self-driving cars.

Women were more concerned than men about totally self-driving cars, while older drivers were more concerned than younger drivers.

"Overall public opinion has been remarkably consistent over the two years that this survey has been conducted, despite the increased media coverage of self-driving vehicles," noted report authors, Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak.

Meanwhile, a survey of 1,000 drivers in the UK found more than half (52%) opposed to the introduction of driverless cars, mainly over fears about road safety, Autocar Professional reported.

SmartWitness, a vehicle CCTV firm based in the West Midlands, also revealed that nearly two-thirds (62%) of UK drivers said they would feel less safe on the roads alongside other vehicles with no human behind the wheel.

British drivers also expressed concern about the potential insurance implications, with nearly three-quarters (72%) saying there would be added complications to resolving insurance disputes.

And a full 91% supported the compulsory introduction of camera technology in all autonomous vehicles so there would be court-admissible proof of exactly what had happened in the event of an accident.

The findings come just a week after the British government unveiled its legislative programme in the Queen's Speech, which included measures in the Modern Transport Bill to "ensure the UK is at the forefront of technology for new forms of transport, including autonomous and electric vehicles".

Paul Singh, CEO of SmartWitness, said: "It is fantastic that the government is embracing this new technology and powering forward, but proper safeguards need to be put in place to protect all motorists."

Data sourced from 24/7 Wall St, Autocar Professional; additional content by Warc staff