What still worries Australians about driverless cars

Peter Terlato 12 October 2016

driverless vehicle concept interior seats

Safety, especially when it comes to children, remains a key concern.

Australians are ready to embrace the practical advantages of driverless vehicles, but there remains a significant proportion of motorists apprehensive about some aspects of the burgeoning hands-free technology.

A new and extensive study, carried out by the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI), analysed the attitudes of more than 5,000 Australians in relation to the advantages and disadvantages of driverless cars.

Preliminary results of the survey revealed almost three-quarters of Aussie drivers (73%) would appreciate vehicle autonomy "when they feel physically or mentally unable to drive manually".

A similar proportion of respondents (69%) would welcome a hands-free experience when driving becomes "boring or monotonous" and a little over half (52%) feel they would be able to rest while the programmed vehicle takes them where they need to go. More than a quarter (28%) would also be confident enough to sleep while riding.

More than a third (36%) of respondents said they would use the additional free time to catch up on work.

However, despite these affirmative sentiments, slightly less than half (47%) of those surveyed felt confident that driverless vehicles were safer than traditional cars.

Echoing these concerns, only a quarter (25%) of respondents would use a driverless vehicle to transport their children.

The ­research also reveals most Aussies aren't willing to fork out more cash for the technology. Those who are said they would pay, on average, $8977 more for a fully-automated vehicle.

The full results of the survey will be published early next year.

While autonomous vehicles are currently only being tested on South Australian roads, their entry into the Australian marketplace may be sooner than imagined.

The ADVI recently partnered with the NSW Taxi Council to research and develop plans and regulations for driverless cabs in Australia, with trials anticipated to commence sometime before 2020.

Tesla Motors already has autopilot capabilities, software developer nuTonomy recently launched the first-ever public robo-taxi services in Singapore, Uber has self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, Google has stepped up its testing capacity and Apple has been rumoured to be entering the market.

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