/ 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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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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

If I had never been in a serious accident caused by a careless driver, I would not have made a ‘ridiculous’ comment.

I am thinking of proper fail-safe control systems which most people who have lived with Microsoft and consumer electronics cannot even conceive of. I would not trust any one of the car manufacturers mentioned in the introduction, but the work could be subcontracted to a specialist company.

With present technology the idea of driverles cars etc. is pie in the sky. The only way it could work is for the road system to be transformed into the equivalent of a railway system able to cope with the random joining, leaving and breakdown of any vehicle at any time. The demonstrations quoted amount to little more than publicity stunts.

I aint a lawyer says:
4 December 2012

Rather than trying to deal with endless traffic congestion and the pollution and waste involved by having driverless cars, it’d be nice if someone thought of a better idea than simply having everyone move around in their own big metal box, powered by fossil fuels, don’t you think?

I really like driving… and yet I would quite like a car with a ‘driverless’ mode – once all the flaws have been worked out of course.

I’d always want the ability to take control back, but more for when I want to drive, not to because I wouldn’t trust a system. I totally accept that a computerised system should be able to respond much quicker than a human could.

As driverless cars develop, it would also be interesting to see a racing version too – perhaps inserting a driverless F1 car into the tournament to see if it could give Vettel a run for his money…

I aint a lawyer says:
4 December 2012

You really like driving? Honestly? Or do you like the perceived convenience?

I hate it – much rather be walking, on a bike, in a bus or train, where I can talk to and interact with my children without having to maintain a laser focus on where I’m going, while wondering where I park when I get there, how much it’ll cost to fill the car up, and what will happen if I make a mistake – or someone else does.

I guess you’ve never had to wait 3 hours in driving snow for a train as they’d cancelled all the stopping ones, but yet all the fast ones would go thru fine. Only to get to work late and then have to stay late to make the time up. Never again, I’d rather drive.And when I had a job I could drive to work faster then the train took, and that was around the same time it would take me to get to the station. A car wins everytime, you just need to plan you journeys ahead and that includes the times you travel.

Well, I’ve sat on a closed motorway for 4 hours, spent 8 hours doing a 3 hour journey from Warrington, amongst others. I’m not saying taking the train is perfect, but at least I can sit down and read a book, with a far better chance of arriving safely ad to schedule than being in a car …

If you life in the South of England can I recommend you check


before starting every journey. Has saved me joining queues

I do actually enjoy driving! The longest journey I’ve done is from London to Mayrhofen in Austia for a skiing/snowboarding festival – with an overnight stay in Germany.

I know saying that I enjoy driving sounds bonkers, but while traffic jams, road closures, diversions and fuel prices are all very annoying, I still find driving relaxing (most of the time) – it’s the privacy I think.

There is incredible woolly thinking over this matter. And it is not the only one. Consider the “cars that fly” which have passed licensing tests in the US:

What makes cars so useful is that they can be driven anywhere and from field to motorway to small lanes in the furthest parts of the UK. Any “driverless” car is actually only ever going to be a hybrid driver/AI vehicle. On motorways and having a “train” of cars that is technically feasible. To stop getting too close to cars in front or predicting an incident are all feasible now. Whether the public are prepared to pay for advanced electronics and to accommodate the new technologies I think extremely doubtful. Car manufacturers and the electronic industry have powerful lobbies in the EU and any study will find a number of initiatives where big business is looking at their benefit.

It is quite ironic that in an uncosted exercise in improving safety so many people are prepared to think it is a good idea whilst most Brits do not even get seasonal tyres “because of cost/need”, Perhaps before soliciting opinion it would be nice to have a ballpark figure for the cost per motorist of meeting the envisaged requirements. And believe me EU requirements are the way to keep your industry on the gravy train.

Limiting motorways to vehicles capable of “driverless activity” might be achievable but desirable is another matter. Particularly in the UK where we have more interchanges per mile than most AFAIK.

Speaking as someone who favours the new Sandero because of its value for money I would be peeved to find an extra £500[?] has been added for equipment I do not need or use.

As an aside, when I was about 7 or 8 I wrote a story that one day the world would be full of flying cars, and that was back in the late 60s.

Controlling millions of cars taking vastly different routes just sounds like a fantasy. We don’t even have extensive driverless trains – and they have clearly controlled routes.
Actually, I do enjoy driving – it is convenient, you can carry goods, control your times (hold ups excepted) and carry passengers to reduce the cost compared to public transport. However the number of other vehicles make it less pleasant than it used to be. One way round that might be for many, for whom it is appropriate, to work a 4 day week (longer daily hours) instead of 5; this would save 20% of those vehicles, their fuel and the staggered hours would reduce congestion.

From the various comments I’m beginning to think driverless cars etc will only become a reality when we start to colonise Mars. Way too many hurdles to overcome in the already antiquated travel infrastructure we have.

Driverless trains would probably be a first step on planet earth though. Although I doubt anytime soon

Dean says “I would rather people either take personal responsibility for their own actions and learn to drive properly. ” We have had cars for 70 years and we are still waiting!
People make mistakes and have lapses.
The young are already being offered computer monitoring and limiting of their speed and could benefit from assistance with their judgement.
With an increasing aged population driving we need to move forward. I doubt if most retirement drivers would pass a driving test.
Part of the reason for an alcohol limit is the slowing of reaction time. I am sure the elderlies reaction time is worse than a young persons when the latter are just “over the limit.” So why are they still driving?
So we all need to go slower? Yes but computers can talk rationally and change lanes or blend three lanes to two lanes in a rational efficient manner and those lovely aggressive people who push in and cause breaking chains that stop the traffic would be no more and we could get from A to B faster. Ditto getting out of junctions. Turing onto road (and off) is I think where most accidents happen.
Sitting at red traffic lights facing an empty road will look positively medieval in years to come.

Phil says:
7 December 2012

If your driverless car IS involved in a collision resulting from a system failure who is going to be liable? Will it be legal to let your car drive you home if you’re tired and emotional?

When the car can be sent off by itself to collect the shopping or pick up the kids from school I might be interested.

Neil says:
7 December 2012

I see this as the solution to transport for both the young and old who can’t drive as well as the rest of us.
Also driver-less car hire/taxi systems will allow you to call up a car using your mobile that will take you right where you want to go and then go off and find a rank to await the next user, all for less cost than a current taxi. They will probable be electric and capable of going and charging themselves at the designated ranks all around town. They will be capable of reducing congestion by using similar routing techniques that guide our e-mails packages.
Also by reducing the number of empty vehicles parked on our streets as they will be in use for a much higher percentage of the time than a family car. They will ease up traffic congestion and get rid of that bane of the road the almost empty gas guzzling bus,. and if it gets rid of the petrol heads it will improve road safety enormously.

I think this is years away, if at all. I’ve seen the test video’s with cars driving through cardboard boxes they were supposed to stop for and self parking systems where the car reversed into a post.

I also love driving and enjoy the peace of being in the car on my own. I seem to have terrific concentration when driving and forget my worries when I’m behind the wheel. I particularly love driving in the countryside away from traffic jams and enjoy visiting new places. I have driven abroad also and after a day of reminding myself to keep to the right am able to relax and enjoy my drive. I would really hate to give up control to a computer.

I used to love to drive to shopping centres to get all my shopping in one trip and to stop for lunch in a local cafe but this is no longer possible due to parking charges being too expensive, If I now go to a local shopping centre I reluctantly take a bus. This is not a pleasant experience if I’m carrying shopping and the bus is full. When I used buses when I was young, I always went upstairs and left the downstairs for oldies and families, this seems to have changed as a great number of younger people lurk downstairs.

In my youth, I always thought we would have flying cars by this century. I think I may have got the idea from ‘Tomorrows World’ Tv programme or from a comic I read. I thought I would eventually drive or pilot such a car but it seems my ambition should now be to travel in a driverless car. What would be the fail safe situation? Stopping in the fast lane of the M25. I think it could only happen if all cars were driverless and they all had the same fail safe and avoidance system.

I suppose the idiots who are using a handheld phone and programme their sat navs whilst driving would be safer on the road in a driverless car. I see a lot of them doinf U turns whilst holding their phone and using a finger on the steering wheel, most are in Range Rover type vehicles.