Victorian tollroad operator EastLink says the autonomous vehicle hype bubble has well and truly burst for motorists, more of whom are showing a reluctance to cede full control to machines.
A survey of 18,000 road users, which EastLink claims to be the world’s largest of its type, suggests that although drivers are warming to features like adaptive cruise control and lane keeping technology, they still don't trust robots enough to let them drive on their own.
EastLink’s spokesman Doug Spencer-Roy said the reduced desire for fully self-driving cars shows that drivers’ expectations had become over-inflated by hype, and they’re now “becoming more realistic” about the capabilities of autonomous vehicles.
More than 80 percent of respondents indicated they would be happy to travel as a passenger in a fully self-driving car if there was a human driver monitoring the situation who could intervene and take control if need be.
Most of the autonomous vehicle trials in Australia to date, such as the last-mile connection shuttles being used by a number of state governments and universities, feature manual overrides for passengers to take over or stop the vehicle in an emergency. The ACT is even investigating how well humans handle the takeover of semi-autonomous vehicles.
A significant proportion of respondents also said they wouldn’t be comfortable travelling in an autonomous vehicle without overrides unless it was proven to be 100 percent safe with no possibility of ever being involved in a collision.
“When it comes to minimum acceptable safety, a significant proportion of people have
unrealistic, unachievable expectations, which will be a significant hurdle for the
autonomous vehicle industry to overcome,” Spencer-Roy said.
Women will be the harder ones for the industry to convince, with 37 percent of female respondents saying they wouldn’t travel in a vehicle that lacks human supervision or overrides compared to 28 percent of men.
And despite the growing popularity of other driver-assistance technologies, women were also less likely to own, use, or plan to use these features.
The only feature that equal numbers of women and men used was speed sign recognition technology, at about 9 percent. The same proportion of men and women (2 percent) also had vehicles that have the tech, they just don’t use it.
The gender difference was less marked in terms of features drivers want in their next cars, but a greater proportion of men were looking to adopt driver-assistance features down the line.
More women did, however, report wanting collision avoidance technology, blind spot warnings and automatic parking assistance compared to men.
Survey results also backed up EastLink’s increasing investments in connected car technology, with more than half of consumers reporting they wanted their car to be automatically warned about upcoming congestion or road incidents, roadworks or weather details and the ability to remotely identify and disable stolen vehicles.
“This demonstrates the importance of EastLink’s trials of 5.9GHz infrastructure to
vehicle communications which started this year,” Spencer-Roy said.