Driverless cars promise fewer accidents UK survey suggests

More than a quarter of UK adults believe that the main benefit of driverless cars will be a reduction in the number of road accidents, a survey has found.

Research firm Opinion Matters quizzed 1282 adults about their attitudes to self-driving vehicles and other aspects of automation on behalf of the EPSRC’s UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems Network ahead of the first ever UK Robotics Week, which takes place between 25 June and 1 July 2016.

Of those questioned, 26.1 per cent said the main advantage of autonomous vehicles like the Google Self-Driving Car will be a reduction in the number of accidents. A fifth (20.7 per cent) expect they will help reduce levels of road rage. Among other key findings, 71.8 per cent said they feel autonomous driving would have a positive impact on everyday commuting.

More than half of Brits (56.4 per cent) believe robots will be driving cars in the next 25 years. But although 21.2 per cent of people think that the automotive sector is the area of industry poised to deliver the greatest benefits from robotics in the near future, there’s an imbalance between men, who rated it in top place, and women, who think medicine has the most to gain.

Robot assistance with mundane jobs is expected to become part of everyday life in the next ten years. A quarter of people polled think ball-collecting robots will be helping in tennis games, a fifth would like their vacuuming chores to be undertaken by a robot and one in six would like be happy for a machine to take care of their ironing.

Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, chair of the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, warned that as technology changes the nature of the workforce, replacing certain types of jobs whilst creating new opportunities, public engagement on a national level is essential to ensure people have a clear understanding of robotics and artificial intelligence.

“At the same time, we need to be open and prepared for the changes in workforce structure and shift in the skills base by developing a national programme to address the digital skills gap,” he added.

Highlighting the role of robotics and AI by explaining the current state of technology is one of the aims of UK Robotics Week, which is to be held annually during the last week of June. This year’s inaugural events culminate in an International Showcase in London on Friday 1 July bringing together the latest research from around the world.

Rebecca Northfield picks the top 10 robots appearing at Robotics Week in the July 2016 issue of E&T.

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