Research probes community attitudes to self-driving cars

The intention of consumers to adopt automated cars is the focus of research being presented at the Australasian Road Safety Conference.

Associate professor, Ioni Lewis from Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety-Queensland (CRRS-Q) has found that attitudes towards Level 4 automated cars differ between countries.

Covering cars that are fully autonomous and able to drive by itself completely, consumers in Australia are less willing to adopt Level 4 automated cars than their French counterparts.

“France has been trialling automated cars for several years and is a world leader, so we think this increased level of community exposure to these cars may have contributed to the differences in intentions found between the countries,” said Lewis.

Lewis and her team, spread between Australia, Sweden, and France, also looked into why people were more or less likely to feel comfortable about purchasing an autonomous vehicle.

“In France and Sweden, people’s ‘attitude’ (their emotions and beliefs) toward these vehicles was the biggest predictor but in Australia it was ‘performance expectancy’, which reflected how much they thought a highly automated vehicle would actually assist them,” said Lewis.

Although Level 2 autonomous cars are commercially available and comprise those cars that can conduct basic tasks such as braking without human input, the uptake of higher levels of automation will depend upon the willingness of purchasers to get in a car, potentially without a steering wheel.

According to co-author Dr Sherrie-Anne Kaye, Queenslanders who were surveyed for the study saw both advantages and disadvantages of automated cars.

“They reported quite a few advantages, including that these cars would make driving easier for elderly people and people with disabilities, reduce the human errors that contribute to crashes, and enable people to multi-task during their commutes.

“But some of the common concerns included possible technology malfunctions, hacking and privacy issues, who was legally liable, problems with mixed traffic environments (automated and non-automated vehicles) and losing the enjoyment of driving a car themselves,” said Kaye.

“The perceived barriers to one day driving an automated car included the high cost, a lack of trust and control, safety (for themselves and others) and current legislation.”