Driverless cars statistics: what does the UK think of autonomous cars

When you think of the concerns UK residents have about driverless cars, you might expect safety and software security to come out top. However, you would be wrong.

Research from the Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak from the University of Michigan Transport Research Institute (UMTRI), has shown people in the UK are among the most trusting in the world when it comes to both semi-autonomous (level 3) and fully autonomous(level 4) vehicles.


Here we go over the results of Schoettle and Sivak’s research and find out just how far our enthusiasm for driverless cars goes.

[sub](Note: For the sake of clarity, “slightly concerned” and “not at all concerned” are shown in the graphs below as “not concerned” and “very concerned” and “moderately concerned” are shown as “concerned”) [/sub]

Driverless cars statistics: Would you travel in an autonomous car?

Schoettle and Sivak asked a total of 3,255 people from the UK, US, Australia, India, Japan and China how concerned they would be about travelling in level 3 and level 4 self-driving cars.

In the UK, as with the rest of the world, we’re much less trusting of level 4 cars, where you are merely a passive passenger, than level 3 cars, in which you have some control over the vehicle and can intervene if necessary – much like Google’s current self-driving car prototypes.

14.6% of the 527 people in the UK surveyed said they wouldn’t be at all concerned in a level 3 car, the highest percentage of all countries surveyed, 36.8% said they would be only slightly concerned. 14.8% said they would be very concerned, which is the second lowest percentage after China (9.2%).

concerned driving level 3

Despite 57.1% of UK respondents saying they would be very or moderately concerned, only Japan (52.3%) and China (49%) are less concerned.

So what are we scared of in level 4 cars?

Our biggest worry is the safety consequences of an equipment or system failure, with 44.8% of people saying they were very concerned and 36.8% saying they were moderately concerned.

We’re also concerned about a level 4 car’s ability to deal with unexpected situations, with 38.1% saying they were very concerned and 34% saying they were moderately concerned.

Equipment or system failure

On the other hand, we’re the least concerned about learning to use a level 4 car and the only country that has more people who are not concerned (21.4%) or only slightly concerned (30.2%) than moderately (33%) or very (15.4%) concerned.

Driverless cars statistics: Would you travel on autonomous public transport?

Public transport

Despite the fact that the DLR and, potentially, the Tube in London are driverless, people in the UK have absolutely no interest in getting on self driving public transport.

44% of respondents said they would be very concerned about self-driving public transport, such as buses, and 28.5% said they would be moderately concerned.

We wouldn’t want to travel in a level 4 taxi either, with 41.3% saying they would be very concerned and 28.8% saying they would be moderately concerned.

Despite this, globally we’re the most likely to give the technology a go. 11.3% wouldn’t be at all concerned about getting on a driverless bus, and 10.7% would gladly accept a ride in a driverless taxi.

Driverless cars statistics: What would you do in an autonomous car?

What would you do

Respondents were asked what they would do if they were travelling in a level 4 car and, according to the statistics, we’re apparently control freaks.

Despite not being able to intervene at all, 44% would watch the road anyway – the highest percentage globally.

Of those people who would carry out an activity, most would read (7.6%) and 5.5% would text or talk to family and friends. At 7.2%, sleeping is also a popular activity, 4.3% would watch TV or a film, 4.9% would work, and 1.9% would play games. 1.7% said they would do something else – you can make of that what you will.

There’s still a hard core of respondents who are adamant they would never get in a level 4 car in the first place, though, with 23% saying they’d refuse a ride.

Driverless cars statistics: the benefits

Despite our reservations, the population of the UK do see some potential benefits in totally driving cars.

We’re pretty hopeful level 4 cars could improve road safety, with 71.1% of people saying it’s very or somewhat likely they could lead to fewer crashes and 72.7% saying they could reduce the severity of crashes.

The UK respondents also think there could be some economic benefits: 58.2% felt it was likely or somewhat likely that level 4 vehicles could bring down insurance rates and almost 76% thought they could increase fuel efficiency.

Driverless cars statistics: would UK residents buy an autonomous car?

pay more

Do these perceived economic and safety benefits of level 4 cars, and our comparative comfort with level 4 cars mean the people of the UK would be interested in buying one?

In short, no.

Only 18% of respondents said they would be very interested in doing so, whereas 36.6% had no interest. For comparison, 40.2% of Chinese respondents and 46.9% of Indian respondents said they would be very interested.

We’re certainly not going to open our wallets for an autonomous car either.

At 59.8%, we’re the second least likely nation to pay any extra to have a level 4 car after Japan (67.5%). Of those who said they would shell out a bit more for the technology, on average they would only pay up to $1,710 (£1081) more – once again we were beaten only by Japan, who would pay a measly $465 (£294) extra.

Would you go in a self-driving car or buy one? Do you agree they could make our roads cheaper? Let us know in the comments.

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