Survey finds majority of UK drivers not ready for driverless cars

More than two-thirds of drivers would be ‘uncomfortable’ with the prospect of driverless cars being allowed on British motorways next year, according to a new survey.

The YouGov poll asked drivers if they would be comfortable or uncomfortable with “the idea of driverless cars” on British motorways. Of the 1947 adults surveyed, 36% said they would not be comfortable at all with the prospect and 33% saying they would not be ‘very comfortable’.

Just 6% of respondents said they would be ‘very comfortable’, with 17% saying they would be ‘fairly comfortable’, while 9% said they didn’t know.

The survey follows the government’s ‘call to evidence’ on the planned introduction of cars using advanced automated lane keeping systems (ALKS) in the UK next year.

Described as ‘traffic jam chauffeur technology’, ALKS would allow cars to entirely control themselves at speeds of up to 37mph in heavy traffic conditions on motorways.

Despite the phrasing being used in the wider media, the proposed ALKS technology is not ‘driverless’ but is intended as an advanced assistance system. Regulations mean that ALKS systems can be activated only when a driver is present, with monitoring safeguards in place to ensure the driver is ready to regain control should the situation require it.

But the UK government has previously announced plans to allow limited trials of fully autonomous cars on British roads in 2021 and the survey results show that efforts will be required to convince the public they are safe.

Notably, the results shows that younger people are more open to the prospect of driverless technology. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, just 19% said they would be ‘not comfortable at all’ with driverless cars, compared with 47% of 50- to 65-year-olds, and 50% of those aged 65 and over.