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One in three people in the UK is already on the lookout for self-driving vehicles, according to a new survey from AXA which set out to gauge the level of interest in this emerging technology amongst car buyers.
66 per cent said that they would be happy to hop on board a driverless vehicle in order to get from A to B, with a number of benefits cited, including reduced congestion and a less stressful experience.
A quarter of those questioned said that they were interested in the advantages of autonomous driving because it would mean that they would never have to worry about getting lost or working out directions themselves, since the car would take care of everything.
Around a tenth of respondents said that they would flat-out refuse to use an autonomous car because of fears over safety. This shows that there is still a misconception about the reliability of self-driving systems, particularly when the vast majority of accidents which occur on the roads of the UK today are caused by human drivers making mistakes.
The idea of allowing everyone to become a passenger and making the car do all of the driving work is one which should theoretically lead to fewer injuries and deaths. And in the long term it may ultimately possible to prevent such issues completely, once every car on the road is autonomous.
Report spokesperson David Williams argued that there was strong evidence to suggest that driverless cars would help to halve the number of accidents and lead to less traffic on some of the busiest routes. He also said that autonomous technology would allow people to enjoy the benefits of car ownership and use even if they were physically incapable of driving themselves.
The possibilities for disabled and elderly users seem to be especially promising, and car sales could actually increase if new segments of the market are unlocked in this way.
Williams also commented on some of the reluctance that people were exhibiting in relation to self-driving vehicles, stating that most of the concerns that exist at the moment are fuelled by misinformation or a lack of understanding. He described this scepticism as being similar to the views expressed in past generations when new modes of transport were introduced, including the train and the original motor car.
Manufacturers will be pleased to see that there is a rising level of interest in autonomous cars, since this will help to justify the significant investment which is being made in the development of these vehicles.
Last week Mercedes-Benz outlined its intentions to build autonomous cars which are not just suitable for transporting passengers but also for acting as a kind of personal assistant and lifestyle coach for owners.
Company spokesperson Dr Dieter Zetsche told attendees at the IFA conference that in the future it would be possible for cars to head out and run errands that humans do not wish to complete in person, whether it's picking up the shopping or parking themselves when a destination is reached.
He said that testing of the self-parking system was already under way in Germany, with Mercedes-Benz harvesting data from a number of real-world trials in order to make its cars better at locating spaces.
Furthermore, the interconnected nature of this technology means that cars will be able to communicate with one another and pass on information about where spaces are available and when they have been vacated. So spending a long time circling around looking for a space to become free will be a thing of the past.
Dr Zetsche said that this will all feed into a better quality of life for owners, enabling them to hop into a car and enjoy a stress-free, entertaining and productive trip to their destination. This will even include health-monitoring features that ensure that every aspect of the vehicle’s interior is tailored to the needs of individual passengers.
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