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Drivers willing to nap in self-driving cars

Survey shows biggest concern is the car’s inability to avoid a crash

Published: April 20, 2016, 9:30 PM
Updated: December 7, 2016, 5:56 PM

Volvo explores how drivers can while away autonomous drives

A new study out of the UK has revealed that when it comes to autonomous driving, half of those surveyed said they didn’t feel completely comfortable with the technology; half of those who do feel comfortable with the technology, though, feel safe enough behind the wheel to have a snooze.

The survey from Whatcar.com (the UK’s leading car-buying site) showed that roughly half of all respondents are becoming increasingly more confident in the technology as they see systems such as blind-spot monitoring and automated braking in an emergency at work in today’s vehicles.

More than half (51%) said they would feel unsafe in a self-driving car, while 45% said they found the idea of a car having complete control of its driving unappealing. The biggest concern is the vehicle’s inability to avoid a crash, with 34% claiming that, though nearly as many (30%) found it unappealing because they might lose their driving enjoyment.

A third of respondents (32%) also claimed they would like to see autonomous driving on higher speed roads, such as motorways. City driving would be encouraged by about 18%. Nearly half of all respondents (49%) would have no qualms about relinquishing control to the vehicle’s computer in traffic jams.

As for what they might do with the extra time behind the wheel, when they didn’t have to be in control of the vehicle, 26% said they would be comfortable enough with the technology to take a nap. Other activities would involve chatting with fellow occupants, browsing the web, or watching TV shows or films.

Most manufacturers are working on autonomous vehicles, with companies such as Audi and Nissan claiming they will have some autonomous performance on the roads by 2020. Nissan plans on having at least 10 vehicles on the road capable of driving without human intervention.

The survey showed that only about 10% of respondents believe we’ll have autonomous vehicles on the road by 2020.

“It’s clear that autonomous cars have a way to go before the concept is truly adopted by the motoring public,” said Whatcar.com editorial director, Jim Holder. “Half the drivers we talked to would feel happiest allowing their car to take over in a traffic jam, when the risk is minimal, while hardly any of them would feel safe letting their car guide them along urban and country roads.

“So it’s perhaps a surprise that so many would feel alright about being piloted down some of the fastest roads – and then even more of a shock that so many would feel able to take a nap,” he concluded.