New research reveals that over half of UK citizens (57%) would not feel safe riding in a self-driving vehicle.

The UK government has stated its vision to have driverless cars on UK roads by 2021 but nearly a quarter of the UK public (23%) said they feel apprehensive about the prospect of self-driving cars on the roads in the next three years, while a fifth of respondents (20%) felt fearful. Only 12% were either excited or optimistic.

In the research, 16% of the UK public said they would feel safe riding in a self-driving, closely followed by other concerns such as:

  • The safety of the passengers (51%)
  • A rise in in, potentially fatal, accidents (49%)
  • Connectivity failures (35%)
  • Cyber-attacks and hacks on personal data (29%)

According to the research:

“In comparison, nearly two thirds of respondents (65%) said they feel safe when flying on-board an aeroplane. Pilots undergo rigorous testing and training, with the use of simulation, to ensure flight safety – a role that Thales has long-standing heritage in.”

Dr Alvin Wilby, Thales VP of Research, Innovation and Technology at Thales UK said:

“For the government’s 2021 vision to become a reality, autonomous cars must not only ‘be’ safe, but also be perceived as safe by the public.

By using synthetic environment technologies – currently used for full flight simulators in aerospace and vehicle simulators – we are able to subject autonomous driving systems to a huge numbers of scenarios, to gain confidence in their safety. We, essentially, subject AVs to a much more rigorous “driving test” than we do with human drivers.

If successful, this work will lay the foundations for the development and certification of all types of unmanned vehicles – in any situation and every environment.”

Professor Paul Jennings, lead for Intelligent Vehicle research at WMG, University of Warwick commented in a release:

“There is potentially a lot that can be learned from other sectors when it comes to certifying the safety of AVs. For example, by using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to run simulations of real-life scenarios, we might learn more quickly how driverless cars will operate across the UK’s challenging urban and rural road networks, and to ensure that they safely interact with other road users.”

40 COMMENTS

    • My wife’s a far better driver than me, she also parallel parks better as well ( she can put a van in a spot most of us would struggle to put a car in, she left one builder with his jaw unhinged after he told her she’d never get her van in a space, two secs before she reversed it in in one go) infact as it took her the grand total of about 2 weeks to pass her test so she could probably hand most none professional drivers their arses.

      She can also strip and rebuild an engine as well……and she’s not even a car mechanic,she’s a nurse.

    • Why? A computer will be infinitely better at driving than a Human. My journey to work is effectively a survival exercise in making sure nobody hits me! Even then, no matter how careful I drive I can’t stop everyone from doing something really stupid, like pulling out into the road directly in front of me, causing me to smash right into them! Or going in to Sainsburys to do the shopping and coming out to the side of my car smashed in…

      Computers can make more decisions in a much quicker time they can also assess many more data points than we can. That is why aircraft are controlled by computers.

      • Aircraft aren’t controlled by computers. The majority of modern aircraft are fly by wire, but in every aircraft from passenger jets to surveillance drones, the commands still come from pilots.

        The only cases you could say a computer is in control in regards to autopilot or stabilisers in unstable aircraft like the Typhoon. In both cases though, the computers task is just to fly in a straight line, and is more akin to assisting the pilot than actually being in control.

        The point is, computers can make decisions infinitely faster than people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re making the RIGHT decision. Computers hate random variables, and they lack morality, both of which are key features of the real world. Technology is improving, but right now that’s the case.

        • In modern aircraft the pilot merely tells the aircraft what he would like it to do and the computers work out the best way to carry out that command. Not only that but pretty much every modern commercial aircraft can land automatically and indeed sometimes do when the pilot can not do it safely on his own. The rest of your journey to your holiday destination is absolutely done under computer control. Also bear in mind that almost every single air crash in modern times has been either mechanical failure or pilot error. The computers are rarely at fault even to the point where some of the pilot error accidents are due to pilots overriding the computer which was telling them to not do what they were trying to do. Computers also issue all sorts of warnings to the pilots to try to stop humans doing stupid things.

          Eurofighter literally could not stay in the air without the computer as a human could not react quick enough to fly it.

  1. As a software developer, after years of suffering at the hands of Microsoft Windows, I can understand people’s fear of getting a blue screen of death or a virus while doing 70mph on a motorway. Thankingfully not all software is that bad, and I’m looking forward to sleeping, etc 😉 while my car does the boring driving stuff.

    • Nice knowing you Sean…….

      Sean was a decent hard working family man, taken from us too early. He wasn’t to know that his cars IT had been updated overnight, but had come from America, where they drive on the right hand side……..

    • To be fair. Microsofts Operating systems have to be very backwards compatible and have to cope with enormous numbers of hardware configurations. Blue screens of death are normally caused by hardware and third party driver issues rather than the operating system itself. When you factor that in it is surprising that Mac OS and IOS are often at he top of the bug lists… Their IOT platform has given be no issues so far and I have not seen a blue screen of death for many many years on their desktop or server operating systems.

  2. all things considered, even in their early incarnations i bet they still drive better than some of the imbeciles you see on the roads…

  3. This is simple fear of the unknown. There are quite a number of disabled people who would gladly accept the freedom. Personally I suspect “Driver assisted Tech” is the way most of us will experience and be happy with things. A lot of people have been quite happily using forms of this for years. Also I think that what is available now is no where near the sophistication which is rapidly coming down the road.

    In the end it will be the cost which motivated people to change. People will be telling their children of the olden days where you needed car insurance and there were accidents every day.

      • There will probably still be accidents as the mechanics of cars are still likely to go wrong every now and then. But those accidents are likely to be far less in both numbers and severity. A computer for instance will cope with a burst tire on the motorway far better than most humans would.

        • Yes, but, once again Lee, I’ll believe It when I see It. In Our Headlong rush to embrace the Zombification of “Us Humans”, we are In danger of losing the ability to think for ourselves. You Embrace It all you want mate, I’ll happily avoid it as long as I can.

          • It is more about using our brains and abilities for different things rather then losing the abilities. I bet you are pretty glad that computers are making sure your pilot makes as few mistakes as possible and is not overloaded on your holiday flights? I am also pretty sure you are thankful that the computer in your car/bike etc activates and controls your anti-lock brakes etc when needed. To be honest I have better things to do than drive myself to work each day. I could be spending that time either working (so that I spend less hours at the office) or reading etc while my car drive me there. Also imagine the drastic change for disabled people? Those that can not currently drive would be able to be taken wherever they like by their own car! One story I like is the guy that had a heart attack while driving his Tesla. He realised what was happening and told his car to take him to the hospital. It drove him there where he got treatment and survived! (Technically it was illegal as he was supposed to remain in control of the car but hey it was a good ending)

          • Lee1, I have 6 Bikes, Only one has ABS, The others have TC and various other Idiot Systems that I turn Off, Same with my Car and my Wife’s RS Focus runaround. (ABS was invented for Idiots, It’s been a great success as there are so many around. ).

            Being Self Employed, we rarely fly abroad, Owning 3 separate Businesses takes up a lot of our time. Having fun takes up much of the rest.

            Being Disabled myself, I’m very aware of the Importance of being able to get to Hospital.

            Be a slave to Technology all you want mate but don’t think for one minute that everyone wants to become a Techno Zombie Dead Head, Some of us still have a brain and like to Exorcise it regularly.

            Can’t wait for your next reply mate, You make my day every time you ick on every thing I post here, It’s like I have my very own little Pet Troll.

          • I am not talking a little disabled. I am talking so disabled that you can not drive (or ride a bike) and no ABS was not invented for idiots it was invented for safety. Unfortunately by turning it off you are putting others at risk from your idiocy. There are many ways of exercising your brain without driving… In fact by being driven around you could do maths exercises and logic puzzles or maybe a crossword… all while not putting other people at risk due to you turning off safety aids.

          • Lee, I’m a petrol head mate, I love the Thrills and Adrenalin rush Riding 200mph Bikes and Fast Cars. Always have and will till I decide to quit. Turning off safety aids and ABS only takes me back to times prior to their introduction.

            As we have not met, nor have you been a Passenger/Pillion I fail to see how you can State that I’m putting anyone else In Danger. (I’m always happy to give Demonstration Rides) .

            No doubt It has saved a fair few Idiots though.

            I like the Mail Crossword and the Times occasionally, can’t stand Sudoku though.

    • Mark B also was sadly taken from us early, another hard working family man. His travel pod, left the road at high speed when he tried to order a take away chicken madras with extra jalapenos from his mobile phone and the pod decided he had changed the destination on his sat nav to ‘The Star of India’ and turned him off the m4 onto the west country mainline where he met the 6:30 from Paddington.

      God Bless

      • Mnnn I like a good curry. I’d say we should perhaps wait 10 years to see who was right but I’ll probably be blind and suffering from dementia therefore I’ll have forgotten all about it.

        • Mark B,

          You’re no doubt right, in 50 -100 years people will look back and think wtf were those cars you had to drive yourself?. But right now I would no way get into one and ask it to drive me to the pub. Drive me back from the pub, yeah every time, full of beer! Beats falling in the ditch!

  4. When I am too old to feel safe driving myself, I hope self driving cars will be available. I would be cut off in my village, if I did not have a small 2 seat self driving car. Hopefully that is 30 years away.
    I do feel the danger point is when the roads have half normal cars & half self driving cars.
    I suspect autonomy will come quickly in big cities where data is updated all the time, but you may have to take control on country lanes that are rarely surveyed or data updated.

  5. Before I start I want to say I so want this technology to become widely available in my lifetime.

    Now that’s out of the way, I have to say it’s laughable how optimistic many of the proponents of all this are being. Well most, though already some are actually becoming less optimistic and bullish of late. The head of Google’s efforts, often deemed the most advanced in this field, questioned recently if Level 5 autonomy would ever be realised, or if it does it would be many many years away. So what do these people actually mean when they talk of autonomous cars on our roads by 2021/22? I doubt it is what we might understand by such a claim in our minds to be honest.

    • I think Ford are aiming for Level 5 in 5 years. Whether that happens remains to be seen. Though the traditional manufacturers need to try and beat the new entrants in the market; Tesla, Uber, Lyft, etc. Level 5 will be an inflexion point. Those that really need a car and can afford what will be seen as a luxury item will buy the likes of Tesla. Everyone else will just summon the nearest Uber/Lyft owned self-driving car from their smartphone.

    • The problem is that computers can see in eighteen different directions at once, rarely tire and need little rest whilst they find it difficult to differentiate between and child running into the road and a bush swaying in the wind. Millions of years of evolution have adapted the brain to do wonderful things for self preservation but our abilities to train computers to expand those abilities have happened (relatively) in the blink on an eye. The car itself is an example of our ability to travel 10 times our original speed in an astonishingly short period.

    • It’s completely fair to be sceptical on timescales, especially for level 5, but what was a widely held consensus across most experts in a technology area has been wrong before. I should know, I was one of those experts. The area was speech recognition.

      One way to break down the challenges for speech recognition is to consider the following 3 desirable properties of a system…

      1 – Untrained as opposed to trained recognition. Untrained means not needing a user to be registered with the system so that the system learns his or her voice by having the user read out often quite lengthy pieces of pre-prepared sample text to the computer.

      2 – Continuous as opposed to discrete speech, e.g. just say “What is the time” vs saying “what” pause “is” pause “the” pause “time”.

      3 – Unrestricted as opposed to restricted vocabulary, e.g. the recognition system can only understand a limited number of words, maybe a couple of hundred at best, vs understanding pretty much anything in the Oxford Dictionary (which isn’t literally unrestricted but in use is effectively so).

      There are actually other aspects too such as single vs multiple speakers recognised and whether a system could work in a noisy environment.

      Up to probably about the mid if not late 1990s the pretty much universally accepted wisdom amongst the research community working in this field was that it was such a difficult and intractable problem that building a robust system that exhibited one of the three main properties listed above was pretty much solved, that getting to two out of the three was going to be a huge challenge to do with a high level of accuracy, and that building a system that managed all three would take many decades, perhaps 50 years, and might in fact never be achievable at all.

      It’s now 2019 and my home is littered with phones, tablets, desktop PCs and a couple of Google Home devices that I bought for £35 each in a sale all of which can do untrained, unrestricted-vocabulary continuous speech recognition with ease and for multiple speakers and even in very noisy environments. When I was working right at the cutting edge of this research in the 1980s I could never have imagined that we would get to the capability that we have now within my lifetime.

      Just perhaps the speed of progress towards level 5 cars will surprise some of us.

  6. As long as I still actually enjoy Driving, I’ll try to avoid this. It probably works well for City Commuting though, allowing more time to be connected rather than getting stressed whilst sat in Traffic.

  7. I won’t be buying one any time soon: I’ll wait until the technology has been perfected first and is cheaper.

    Wish others would have them though, especially the moron who crashed into the back of me on Thursday morning and f*cked my car up!

  8. One thing is for sure, the tech is coming at some point. UK should grab this with both hands and lead the technology like we used to older tech. If you can lead it you can sell it to others, too often these days we’re consumers of other countries tech.

  9. I wouldn’t mind something that makes cars keep a safe distance from the car in front, and perhaps also some sort of collision avoidance system.

  10. Just because we could have driverless cars on the road, it doesn’t mean we should. It fills me with dread. Most of us quite like doing the driving.

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