Are Brits comfortable with self-driving cars?

Christien PhebyContent Manager
April 28, 2021, 3:46 PM UTC

YouGov Direct data shows that, in a high-risk situation, more than seven in ten would trust a human to make better decisions over an autonomous vehicle  

In recent weeks, reports of accidents involving Tesla’s driver-assisting “Autopilot” system have surfaced, reviving concerns around the safety of autonomous vehicles on the roads (Tesla’s system is not fully-autonomous and is designed to help drivers, rather than replace them).  

While some have argued that AI systems can operate a vehicle more effectively than a human driver – and potentially even save lives – data from YouGov Direct shows that Britons remain wary of this emerging technology.  

When asked, nearly three-quarters of the public say they’d feel uncomfortable as a passenger in a self-driving car (73%), with just a quarter saying they’d be happy to sit in an autonomous vehicle (25%). Not only would people feel ill at ease in a driverless car, most would feel uncomfortable simply being around one. Two-thirds of Britons say they would feel uncomfortable driving a car in an area where self-driving vehicles are allowed on the road (67%) – or as a pedestrian in an area where self-driving vehicles are permitted (68%).  

The evidence also suggests that attempts to communicate the safety of autonomous vehicles have failed to cut through. When asked whether they would trust a human driver or a self-driving car to make better decisions in a high-risk situation such as a potential traffic accident, more than seven in ten chose the human (72%) and just 12% chose the AI – which was outperformed by the “Don’t know” option.  

Ultimately, the public don’t trust self-driving cars as passengers, pedestrians, or drivers. Whether this discomfort is motivated by recent headlines, resistance to new technology, or simple fear of the unknown is uncertain – but whatever the reasons, Brits aren’t ready to walk around, ride in, or drive near an autonomous vehicle just yet.

Methodology

YouGov polled 1,200 YouGov Direct users on 21 April 2021 between 21:45 and 22:17 BST. The sample is weighted to be nationally representative and the margin of error is 5.3%. Learn more about YouGov Direct.

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