Australians like the idea of driverless cars, but first they want to take a look under the hood.
Preliminary results from a national study undertaken by the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI) suggest Australians are fairly keen to give up the steering wheel.
The survey of more than 5,000 Australians over the age of 18 found that a majority liked the idea of using a driverless vehicle when they were tired, when driving was “boring or monotonous,” or if they had consumed alcohol or drugs.
Despite the enthusiasm, Michael Regan, chief scientist at the Australian Road Research Board, who oversaw the survey, told Mashable that respondents had reservations ranging from security to financial liability.
“The big thing people are concerned about is vehicle security,” he said. “Seventy-nine percent of the sample were worried about vehicle security, like hacking. Seventy-two percent were worried about data privacy.”
While people were willing to get into the car themselves, they still baulked when it came to children.
“Concerns about a child riding in a self driving car by themselves that’s the biggest concern of all,” he said. “Ninety percent of people were concerned or very concerned about allowing a child to be in the car by themselves.”
Further, only 25 percent said they’d use a driverless car to pick up their kids.
Regan chalked those numbers up to a lack of trust in the technology: “When we ask them safety questions do you think a driverless car will be safer than a car driven by a human? only 47 percent of people said a driverless car would be safer.”
Just who would be responsible for an accident was another big issue for those sampled, and one the insurance industry is beginning to grapple with.
“A really interesting finding, that I wasn’t expecting, was 83 percent of people said they’d like to drive manually from time to time.”
There were also mixed responses about some key functions of driverless car technology attitudes that could potentially be fixed with greater exposure to its functionality.
Respondents were most comfortable with driving cars that stayed in a lane by themselves or maintained a speed, he pointed out, but they were least comfortable with cars following other cars closely or autonomously changing lanes.
“It’s sort of understandable, because people aren’t used to being in a car following another car closer than normal,” he said. “One of the mechanisms by which we can decrease congestion and improve traffic flow is to allow driverless cars to drive closely.”
Despite the concerns, a significant number of those sampled were willing to pay big bucks for a driverless car.
Almost 40 percent of respondents were happy to pay more for a fully-automated vehicle than their current car. Of those willing to pay more, they would hand over A$8,977 on average more than their current car.
“I was quite surprised that even though so few people had ever driven a car with any automated function, less than 10 percent, almost 40 percent are willing to pay quite a bit of money,” Regan added.
Still, people fancy themselves behind the wheel. “A really interesting finding that I wasn’t expecting was 83 percent of people said they’d like to drive manually from time to time,” he said.
“That’s a big message, I think, to car manufacturers that people aren’t ready to give up driving just yet.”
The full report should be available early 2017.