Public Perceptions: Autonomous Vehicles - Survey Results

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers recently carried out a survey to find out about public attitudes to autonomous vehicles and whether they have changed in recent years, following previous polls in 2017 and 2019.

The Institution commissioned Walnut Unlimited to carry out this survey of a nationally representative sample of 2,013 adults across Great Britain.

Key Findings

- Seven out of ten (70%) of interviewees indicated they would be uncomfortable travelling in an autonomous vehicle with no human control, at for example 70 mph, compared with 29% who said they would feel comfortable. The results are similar to findings in 2017 and 2019.

- Almost half of drivers (49%) suggested they would feel comfortable in the driving seat of an autonomous vehicle using a full self-driving capability, but which can also be driven like a conventional vehicle.

- Whilst around a third of drivers (34%) indicated that they would not let an autonomous vehicle with self-driving and conventional capabilities take over the driving task, a similar proportion suggested they would let it take over if they felt tired (31%) or unwell (30%).

- Half of respondents (50%) said fully autonomous cars should be available to people who have a disability or health problem which made them unable to drive. A similar number (46%) supported cars being used by people who can no longer drive due to age.

- Two fifths of interviewees (39%) said their biggest concern travelling in a completely autonomous vehicle would be having no overall human control. The second most cited concern (29%) was worries about the car’s ability to deal with external events, for example an accident. These concerns have remained consistent since our first poll in 2017.

- Over half the people interviewed (56%) said they were unhappy with being on a road with a mix of autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles.

- A majority (53%) want fully autonomous vehicles clearly marked with both a special light and written sign/ image on the vehicle.

- One quarter (25%) believe that fully autonomous vehicles will be widely used on public roads in the UK by the 2030s.

- More men indicate they are comfortable with the technology than women, as are younger people compared to older people (Graph 1). This is in line with our previous surveys.


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