/ Motoring

Would you miss driving in a world of driverless cars?

Robot carrying a car

Do you enjoy driving? In the future, that may be a question nobody understands. Driverless (or autonomous) cars are coming, says the car industry – and sooner than you might think.

Bosch thinks we’ll be able to buy driverless cars in the next 20 years, while General Motors is hoping to have fully autonomous cars on sale by 2020.

VW, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz are all reportedly working on driverless cars, while Volvo has been testing driverless convoys in Spain since May 2012. And a driverless Toyota Prius developed by Google has caught the public imagination by driving on public roads in the Nevada desert for most of this year.

Are we sitting uncomfortably?

However, it seems many of us aren’t ready to tear up our driving licences just yet. According to new research by Bosch, only 29% of the British drivers it surveyed would consider buying a driverless car.

People seem happier about the safety aspect, with 34% saying they think driverless cars will reduce accidents, compared to 27% who don’t . Perhaps that’s not surprising, considering the vast majority of road accidents are caused by human error.

There’s also widespread support for the safety technology that underpins the idea of driverless cars. A clear majority of people are happy with systems like driver drowsiness detection, predictive emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems.

I’m not sure I’d put my faith in automated systems completely though. I’ve personally witnessed clever safety systems disappoint in demonstrations. One well-known manufacturer’s city braking demo (supposed to show the car automatically braking to a halt) ended up with the car piling into an inflatable wall. In another demo of an adaptive cruise control system, the demonstrator had his hand on the handbrake lever the whole time ‘just in case’.

Not entirely reassuring. And it convinces me that much more development is clearly needed on these safety systems before they can underpin driverless cars for the public.

Would you miss driving?

Personally, I’d definitely miss the act of driving. And most people seem to be with me, as only 27% of the drivers in Bosch’s survey said they’d enjoy a driverless car as much as driving themselves. Yes, sitting in stop-start jams can be maddening, but find a nice road and driving can be blissful.

For the people who’d really prefer not to drive, I have a solution for them: take the bus, train or taxi. For most motorists, I suspect we’re going to take some persuading before we hang up our steering wheels.

Would you buy a driverless car if they became available?

No - I would miss driving (51%, 111 Votes)

Yes - I like the idea of an autonomous car (29%, 62 Votes)

I'm not really sure (20%, 43 Votes)

Total Voters: 219

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Comments
Member

It cannot be any worse than having idiots using mobile phones while driving.

My main reservation is that car manufacturers are not very good at producing reliable electronic systems, witness all the problems with warning lights showing up non-existent faults.

Member

Oops – I forgot to say that I would be happy hand over driving, especially in heavy traffic.

Member

Would you trust your life to a computer? Aircraft have time to recover if there is a malfunction. Not much chance of that at 70mph on the M25.

Member

The control systems have got to be fail-safe, unlike the systems on present cars. Most of us have no concept of what can be achieved using industrial or military-grade electronics.

Providing we don’t try to mix drivers with driverless cars, I believe that it could be a safer alternative to what we have at present.

Member

70 on the M25, I dream of being able to go that fast on that silly road.

Anything that takes the careless drivers out there away from the controls can only be a good thing, but I’m not sure the car industry is best placed to make that happen. How many times do car manufacturers feature on BBC Watchdog for not doing recalls, it must be averaging at least once a series.

And its not just car manufacturers that would need to play a part in this, councils, the highways agencies and several other groups of people would all need to be involved as a Europe ongoing concern. No point buying a swanky German built car if it couldn’t understand UK speed limits changes. So until all that is sorted or at least under way driverless cars won’t be allowed on the streets. And lets hope they don’t use satnavs to tell the car the prevailing speed limit, as they not that reliable either.

Member

I would be a lot happier if car manufacturers would sort out the reliability of their electronic systems than treating external car lighting as a decorative rather than functional safety feature, and messing about with new gadgetry.

Member
PeterW says:
3 December 2012

“Providing we don’t try to mix drivers with driverless cars …” Huh? Surely the whole point is that will have to happen? We can’t build a whole new road system that’s only open to driverless vehicles; and neither can we change from drivers to driverless cars overnight.

Member

Next time we build a motorway, perhaps that could be reserved for driverless cars. If that works well, other motorways could become restricted to driverless cars.

That may sound ridiculous, but is it any more ridiculous than condoning the current number of people being killed and injured on our motorways as a result of human error.

Don’t forget that a driverless car can be switched to ordinary driving.

Member

Yes Wavechange, that is ridiculous.

Why do people respond to questions like this with such an emotive response? “Save the children” or something like that.

People, will make mistakes. By automating it, you are taking the responsibility off the driver and putting it in the hands of a software developer/tester etc. instead.

I would rather people either take personal responsibility for their own actions and learn to drive properly.