Scots don’t like the idea of driverless cars

Only 19% of people in Scotland feel comfortable with the idea of travelling in a driverless car, the lowest level in the UK, according to a new opinion poll from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The poll found that 70% of Scots are unhappy with the thought of being an occupant in an autonomous vehicle, with most people concerned about the lack of human control and the car not being able to deal with challenging road conditions, such as an accident.

Adults in Wales and the South West expressed similar caution while people in the South East of England had the most positive view of autonomous technology, with 31% comfortable with the idea of self-driving cars and 59% unhappy about being in a car without a driver behind the wheel.

The survey found that 35% of adults in Scotland thought the UK would never switch to having only driverless cars on the roads, with 56% of people saying they would always prefer to drive themselves rather than use an autonomous vehicle. These results are similar to elsewhere in the UK.

The poll results outline the challenges car manufacturers and technology companies face in building public trust in autonomous driving systems, which was dented last year by news of the crash of a driverless Uber vehicle in Arizona killing a pedestrian.

In its report on the survey, Public Perceptions: Driverless Cars, the Institution calls for more trials with autonomous vehicles sharing the roads so that people can see the cars in action and have a chance to ride in them.

Dr Colin Brown, chief executive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: ‘Consumer confidence is essential for autonomous technology to succeed, but if anything, that confidence has waned in the last two years. During that time, there have been very few controlled trials on our roads to allow people to experience the vehicles at first hand. As engineers, we remain convinced of the need to explore the potential advantages the technology offers.

‘The Government has plans for trials of self-driving cars on roads in Edinburgh and London by 2021, but we would like to see many more taking place in other locations in the UK.’

The poll found attitudes towards autonomous technology varying significantly by gender and age. A third of men in the UK are comfortable about travelling in a driverless vehicle, less than one fifth of women say the same.

It found 42% of people aged between 18 and 24 feel confident about being an occupant in a driverless car, compared 11% for those aged 75 and over.

The poll was carried out by ICM and surveyed 2,014 adults in the UK in July 2019.

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