Are consumers ready to let self-driving cars take the wheel?

Travelling by self-driving car is the future, but how are consumers responding to such developments today—are they scared to let AI take the helm?

Self-driving cars are here. Not in the mainstream of the mobility sector just yet, but more organisations are innovating and adopting new technologies to allow fully autonomous vehicle functions. 

But, are commuters prepared to let cars roam the streets without drivers, or will they eliminate the fact due to the level of concern around safety? 

According to Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s Worlds Risk Poll, 27% of the world’s population say they would feel safe in a self-driving car. The result comes as no surprise as autonomous driving is still a fairly new concept for the average consumer, but nevertheless, if they aren’t able to get on board with the idea, they may find themselves walking in decades to come. 

Autonomy is making its way into the automotive industry and is providing scope for new technology entrants, bringing self-driving tech fitted to some of the current electric vehicles (EVs). 

However, the benefits are said to outweigh the risks as artificial intelligence (AI) is more capable and more switched on than the majority of drivers, and is said to transform the safety aspect of transportation by eliminating factors like human error, distraction, fatigue. In fact, 65% of people recognise this and do not feel safe riding with a human driver.

Nevertheless, the results from the poll highlight a positive effect from self-driving technologies, but also shows organisations must focus on the trust element of autonomous vehicles to bring more consumers on board. 

The results from the latest World Risk Poll indicate significant trust issues with perceptions of the safety of self-driving vehicles. Despite technological advancements and anticipated safety benefits, there is still much work to be done – both in terms of regulation, and in working with communities to ensure that the public have confidence in these vehicles,” says Dr Sarah Cumbers, Director of Evidence and Insight at Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

“That’s why Lloyd’s Register Foundation supports programmes, such as the Assuring Autonomy International Programme at the University of York, that are working to ensure the safe introduction of autonomous systems, including self-driving cars.”

Also talking to this point, Dr Ana MacIntosh, Programme Manager at the Assuring Autonomy International Programme, says: 

"With the support of Lloyd's Register Foundation, the Assuring Autonomy International Programme is leading the safe introduction of autonomous systems, including self-driving cars. 

“We provide guidance that helps engineers and developers work systematically to provide structured evidence that their systems are safe. We are also working with regulators so that they can ask manufacturers the right questions to assess the safety of systems presented to them. With clear and understandable ways to demonstrate safety, we can start to establish public trust in self-driving cars."

Eastern countries see less risk in autonomous EVs

The study shows that people in Denmark are the most likely to feel that AI can help, not hinder, them—as 45% claimed. Closely following those in the North of Europe, commuters in the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan are also supportive of AI—Indonesia, Zimbabwe, and Gabon following these countries. 

Data from the Lloyd's Register Foundation showing views on AI per country.

There’s a point to be made from this as we recognise the trend of lower risk in less economically developed countries. 

Perhaps this is due to the overall risk in each country and the exposure to more danger across these countries. More developed economies are those that produce autonomous vehicle technologies, but fail to see the benefits in the same light as those living in LEDCs. It’s also important to note that between 17% to 30% of countries’ occupants share no opinion on the matter, meaning the data is representative of up to 70% of the populations. 

Data form the Lloyd's Register Foundation representing responses by country on a global map.

Much of Africa has not shared an opinion on the use of AI, as well as areas of Latin America and the Middle East. One of the biggest advocates of AI is China, which is not only the leading country in EV adoption at an affordable cost, but is also heavily dependent on the technology industry.