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  • Sep 22, 2021
  • 3 Minutes

Are driverless cars the future of automotive travel? 

Technology is revolutionising many aspects of modern life, but it appears we Brits aren’t willing to relinquish our driving duties just yet.

That’s because recent research* from our data insights team has found that just under half of us (46%) would prefer to drive ourselves rather than rely on self-driving technology.

We commissioned the survey to discover what the nation really thinks about driverless cars after the Department for Transport announced earlier this year that self-driving vehicles could be allowed on UK roads by the end of 2021 – with automated lane-keeping systems (ALKS) the first type of hands-free driving legalised.

And regionally, it’s Scottish people who are Britain’s most confident drivers, with 54% of Scots saying they’d trust their own driving skills over driverless vehicles.

People living in northern England are the second most likely group to back their motoring prowess over driverless cars (48%), followed by people in the South East (47%) and respondents in the Midlands (46%).

However, just four in ten people (40%) in Wales and the South West feel they’d be better drivers than driverless cars.

Generationally, 18-24 year olds believe in their driving abilities most (52%) whereas just 39% of over 75s think they’d be a better driver than a driverless car.

Key facts and figures

The government says the driverless car market in the UK could be worth as much as £42 billion by 2035, capturing around 6% of the £650 billion global market, and creating roughly 38,000 new jobs.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has said automated driving systems could prevent 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade through their ability to reduce the single largest cause of road accidents – human error.

What do the experts think?

Our CEO Mike Todd explained that it would require a huge cultural shift for driverless vehicles to be adopted more widely in the UK, but that this transition may be inevitable given the speed of technological advancements. 

He said: “I think our study offers a fascinating insight into the collective psyche of British motorists as it confirms that we’re a proud nation of drivers and that we’re very confident in our own driving abilities.

“It speaks volumes that so many of us would rather be in control behind the wheel as opposed to being chauffeured by highly sophisticated technology.

“Of course, the road to full autonomy will not be without its challenges – which goes some way to explaining the slight apprehension towards driverless vehicles uncovered in our research – but if self-driving technology continues to develop at its current pace, fully driverless cars could be here much sooner than we think.”


What else did our survey find?

Our research also revealed that almost a quarter of Brits (24%) think the first fully driverless car will be available to consumers in five to ten years, whilst 8% think they’ll never hit the mass market.

Just 4% of respondents felt that a fully driverless car will be available to consumers within the next 12 months.

And many people are not completely convinced by the idea of a driverless car, with only one in five (21%) saying they’re likely to buy a driverless car if and when they become available.

However, men are significantly more likely than women to answer that they would be likely to purchase a driverless car (29% versus 13%).

As expected, younger people also indicated a greater likelihood to purchase a driverless car. Respondents aged between 25 and 34 years old are ten times as likely to buy a driverless car than people aged 55 to 64 years old (50% versus 5%).

Most people who are interested in driverless cars say they would expect to spend their time listening to music (44%) whilst behind the wheel, but 22% of people would still be focusing on the road.

Other popular activities envisaged by this group included watching TV or a film (25%), reading (25%), sleeping (20%) and checking emails (17%).

READ MORE: Three big reasons why you should consider driving an electric car

READ MORE: Are you planning a staycation this year? Our research suggests you probably are!

Research sources:

*The data for this study was collected between 6th August 2021 and 8th August 2021 and comprises responses from 2,012 British respondents.

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