Less than a third of motorists want ‘self-driving’ cars on UK roads later this year

This is the latest report in a series of weekly updates for industry colleagues from Rachael Prasher, managing director of What Car? and Haymarket Automotive. Quoted poll data is from more than 2600 whatcar.com users.

Self-driving cars have made plenty of headlines in recent weeks, with the Government announcing that ‘self-driving’ cars could be allowed on UK roads by the end of the year – although in limited use only.

In the same announcement, the Government also declared that cars with automated lane- keeping systems (ALKS) can be defined as ‘self-driving’, provoking backlash from the insurance sector.

To find out how UK motorists felt about the changes, our latest industry research of 2659 in- market buyers asked if respondents agreed with the announcement. Less than a third (29%) said they agreed with the decision to allow self-driving cars operate on UK roads, with 76% of drivers uncomfortable to share a motorway with self-driving vehicles.

The respondents also disagreed with the decision to allow cars with ALKS technology to be called ‘self-driving’; 74% stated that the title should be reserved for vehicles that can drive with no human input, rather than with technology that can assist with driving.

The Government has previously estimated that, by 2035, 40% of all cars sold in the UK would feature self-driving technology, yet just 37% of respondents said they are confident that the technology would be safe by then.

Another important finding from our research concerned buyer understanding of the various levels of autonomous vehicles – just 35% said they knew the differences between the degrees of autonomy from Level 1 through Level 5.

While the Government is clearly intent on ensuring that the UK stays at the forefront of driverless car development, current drivers still need both education and convincing around the technology.

For dealers this means being up front about what driver assistance features in cars are capable of, and ensuring that drivers fully understand when they can use these features.

For further insight from whatcar.com’s unique website data, please contact claire.groves@haymarket.com