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