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Public divide over driverless cars surveys show

Driverless cars have split public opinion following the go-ahead from the UK government last week to start testing on public roads, surveys find, most people wanting a “manual override option”.

Public acceptance of driverless cars is not very high, a new survey from the IET shows, with only a quarter of men thinking of using a driverless car and 16 per cent of women.

“While driverless vehicles have huge potential to transform the UK’s transport network there is clearly a lot to do before people are won over,” said Hugh Boyes, from the IET.

Assessing which feature would be most important in a driverless car, another survey, conducted by the Product Lab, revealed that an overwhelming 74 per cent of consumers would want a “manual override option”.

“The one thing that amused me in the poll and I voted the same way, is for manual override to be top priority over things like airbags. We obviously all like the idea but are not 100 per cent confident of having no control ourselves,” said one of the respondents.

Asking people aged 16-75 whether they trusted the self-driving pods the IET found that those least likely to embrace driverless cars are over-45s, with younger drivers being most undecided. A quarter of Londoners said they would consider being driven in an autonomous car, compared to 18 per cent in the Midlands.

“Wider public acceptance and trust are crucial, particularly for the older generation, who stand to benefit hugely with increased mobility, so the trials starting now must get to grips with the best ways to win over everyone, from car manufacturers to consumers, to the benefits of driverless cars,” Boyes said.

The Product Lab respondents were concerned about hacking, computer error and the ability for a robot to make an intuitive decision for them, one of the customers saying: “I just cannot see myself in one of these. I would be too stressed out thinking something will go wrong.”

As E&T news reported, a comprehensive review by the government has revealed there is no legal barrier to the testing of self-driving cars, although some road regulations and car maintenance checks will be necessary to accommodate them on the roads.

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