Driverless cars are set to hit British roads at the start of next year as the Government announced it will allow the first trials of vehicles that owners can sit in as passive passengers.
Business Secretary Vince Cable this morning said he was keen for Britain to become a pioneer in the technology. It comes after the Government pledged in the Autumn Statement last year to ensure Britain’s ‘legislative and regulatory framework supports the world’s car companies to develop and test driverless cars in the UK.’
But despite the major boost for driverless technology, Britons it seems are not enamoured by the prospect. According to a new study from Churchill Car Insurance, 56 per cent of respondents said they would not purchase a computerised car while a quarter believe they will not be safe.
Driverless cars: The technology will be tested on British roads from next year
Malfunction is the biggest fear, with three in five of people fearing the computer may be unreliable in their autonomous vehicle.
More than half fear the lack of human control over the vehicle and a third fear cyber security problems such as hacking.
Nearly a third believe commuting times will increase, with only 17 per cent believing there will be a decrease.
Steve Barrett, head of Churchill Car Insurance, said: ‘Driverless cars have a long way to go before they win people’s confidence.
‘Education on issues such as safety standards, including computer ethics is needed, as well as a re-think on existing road rules and amendments to insurance regulation.
‘It is still early days however, so a certain amount of scepticism around such a significant development is to be expected. It is also still too early to be able to assess the implications a fully driverless car will have on insurance.’
AA president Edmund King said that a recent survey of more than 23,000 AA members showed 43 per cent did not agree that UK legislation should be amended to even allow trials of the technology.
Vince Cable: The Business Secretary wants Britain to be at the forefront of driverless technology
Ministers have previously admitted the current Highway Code and rules of the road are inadequate for the new generation of vehicles which pilot themselves.
In the U.S. driverless cars are only allowed on roads in certain states if someone sits in the driver’s seat.
The vehicles work by using GPS technology to locate the vehicle’s position on an electronic map.
In June, Google – who have been at the forefront of driverless technology – unveiled its computerised ‘hands-free’ self-driving bubble car, which has no steering wheel, brake or accelerator pedals.
Google plans to have prototypes ready to test later this summer and says the goal is for the car to ‘shoulder the entire burden of driving’.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: ‘The excellence of our scientists and engineers has established the UK as pioneers in the development of driverless vehicles through pilot projects.
‘Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society.’
He also announced that UK cities can now bid for a share of a £10million competition to host a driverless cars trial and up to three cities will be selected to host the trials from next year, as revealed in the Autumn Statement in December 2013.
Each project is expected to last between 18 and 36 months and start in January 2015.
Is security a threat to driverless cars?
Wil Rockall, director in KPMG’s cyber security team, said: ‘There is no doubt that self-drive cars are going to become a reality. The technology is already available and, with test drives showing early signs of success, an unstoppable journey has started on what will become a well-travelled road.
‘For all the positives, the industry will need to be very alert to the risk of cyber manipulation and attack.
‘Self-drive cars will probably work through internet connectivity and, just as large volumes of electronic traffic can be routed to overwhelm websites, the opportunity for self-drive traffic being routed to create ‘spam jams’ or disruption is a very real prospect.
‘Yet the industry takes safety and security incredibly seriously. Doubtless, overrides could be built in so that drivers could shut down many of the car’s capabilities if hacked. That way, humans will still be able to ensure their cars don’t route them on the road to nowhere.’