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British drivers shun autonomous cars in new survey

Published: 28 July 2014

A quarter of British adults fear autonomous cars will be unsafe - and 56% would never buy a driverless car, it was claimed today.

The survey by Churchill Car Insurance reveals that entrenched attitudes in Great Britain put the new generation of autonomous cars at a disadvantage before they’ve even turned a wheel on British roads.

Google is leading the charge towards autonomous driving, but most major car manufacturers are also dabbling in driverless cars. The truth is, of course, that many of today’s driver aids are already piloting much of the technology, such as laser and radar cruise control, and safety cameras onboard many top-end cars.

Brits worry about driverless cars malfunctioning

The biggest concern British people questioned had was over the likelihood of computer failure. A nation raised on crashing PCs means that 60% of Brits worried that autonomous cars would not be reliable.

Tellingly, the Google car - unveiled earlier in summer 2014 - only had one driver control switch and that was a kill button in case of failure.

Only 8% of those polled said they had no safety concerns about self-driving cars.

How much will people be prepared to pay for an autonomous car?

Not all Brits are conservative reactionaries, however. A quarter of adults would consider buying a self-driving car in future and the report claims that £19,000 is the pricing tipping point at which those in favour would consider paying for a driverless car.

And Brits do understand some of the benefits of going autonomous. Forty percent of adults predict that carbon emissions would fall and fuel consumption improve if a microchip were driving instead of a human.

Steve Barrett, head of Churchill Car Insurance, said: ‘Driverless cars have a long way to go before they win people’s confidence. Education on issues such as safety standards, including computer ethics is needed, as well as a rethink on existing road rules and amendments to insurance regulation.

‘It is still early days however, so a certain amount of scepticism around such a significant development is to be expected.  It is also still too early to be able to assess the implications a fully driverless car will have on insurance.’

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet