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Britons ambivalent about driverless car tech, survey finds

But the one we do want is to summon them via an app

A third of Brits would use a fully driverless car, a third would not, and the majority want to summon them via an Uber-style app, according to polling carried out for the UK Autodrive consortium.

Conducted by researchers at Cambridge University's Engineering Department and the Department of Psychology, the survey consisted of 49 questions about driverless car technology and potential future developments, such as so-called Level 5 autonomy – total driverless capability with no human intervention needed.

Most of Blighty's ex-drivers would also spend their time in a driverless car gawping out the window, according to the survey of 2,850 UK residents.

Three-quarters of respondents had heard of driverless vehicles, compared to just 34 per cent who had heard of automated lane-keeping systems.

"In response to questions about what levels of control they would like to retain, 85 per cent expressed a desire to retain some control over the choice of route, and 74 per cent wanted to retain an option to drive manually," said the university in a statement.

The researchers split respondents into four social groups: young professionals; established urbanites (rich old folk who like their tech); millennial agnostics (young folk but less lemming-like towards adopting new technologies than most of their cohort); and "The Traditionals" (old folk who live in the countryside). These categories were originally devised for a 2015 study by the Transport Systems Catapult and the Automotive Council.

Most people thought that people with disabilities would benefit most from driverless cars, while just under a fifth thought that children (ie, those being chauffeured on the school run) would benefit from them. "The implication is 'everyone else except me'," noted the researchers, "a response which suggests an element of uncertainty, or lack of trust, in the new technology."

Driverless cars are a firm ambition and, given the sums of money being poured into the field by government and the private sector alike, a certainty; the only uncertainty is when they will become commercially available. While other studies – particularly the ongoing GATEway trial in Woolwich, London – have found that the public tend to be more curious about driverless vehicles than anything else, it seems that industry has a long way to go to secure greater public trust ahead of trials on public roads. ®

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