Driverless Cars: The Way of the Future?

Your.Views Community

James Carnegie

We recently asked members of Harris Interactive’s online community, Your.Views, for their thoughts and feedback around driverless cars. This follows the first trial of such cars in the UK at the end of 2016 and the Government’s recent Budget pledge to set aside £270m to put the UK at the forefront of disruptive technologies (which would include development of such vehicles).

Across 48 hours we achieved over 150 responses on the topic, with some fantastic debate and insight emerging.

There are three distinct groups that emerge with almost equal proportions falling into each. The first are those enthused and excited by the prospect of driverless cars. The second incorporates those who are cynical and against the idea of driverless cars. The third group are those taking a more considered approach—not being against the technology, but also expressing some reservations that will need to be overcome in order for them to fully embrace the idea of driverless cars.


Why are people in favour of driverless cars?
  • They are seen as safer and eliminate “human error”
    • “Already technology such as collision avoidance and lane monitoring is reducing accidents and with a fully autonomous car you will be safer than any amount of driver control.” (Andy)
    • “We might not like to admit it but most accidents are caused by driver error so I think driverless cars will make the roads much safer.” (Katharine)


  •  They are convenient and open up possibilities for non-drivers
    • “In my personal life this would help me. I suffer from progressive arthritis so struggle to operate a car sometimes. Therefore, a driverless car would take the stress and pressure off me.” (Garry)
    • “I can’t drive so a driverless car would be ideal for me as it would give me more independence and would mean that I wouldn’t have to rely on public transport” (Gudrun)


  • They are an inevitable progression in a changing world and should be embraced
    • “Driverless cars are coming, make no mistake about it. The technology is being developed and improved, month by month… The world is becoming a more and more crowded place and we will have to accept many different technologies and controls to allow us to live amicably together in the future.” (John)
    • “I think they are a great innovation and would be very handy for a lot of us.” (Dee)


Why are people against driverless cars?
  • They are seen as unsafe
    • “Erm it’s an accident waiting to happen.” (Jordan)
    • “Not sure these are really safe – weren’t there some crashes?” (Angela)


  • They are “too futuristic”
    • “Too futuristic for me, however, prototypes have been developed and are being tested so whether I will see them on the roads in my lifetime, time will tell.” (John)
    • “I am not ready for driverless cars yet, I like to be in control, this is a bit too futuristic for me.” (Judith)


  • Further evidence of a “lack of control” for humans/drivers
    • “Driverless cars are coming, whether we like it or not. I personally would not feel relaxed enough to let the car take complete control, but I realise I am going to have to share the roads with these cars which worries me.” (Paula)
    • “No thanks, I’d rather be behind the steering wheel” (Nora)


  • What happens when the “technology fails” or if the car is hacked?
    • “Since I don’t drive it would be helpful, but so far I am suspicious of the technology. There’s also the threat of hacking.” (Nigel)
    • “Technology is not without error” (Christine)


  • Some people enjoy driving and are reluctant to give it up
    • “Personally I enjoy driving and don’t like the idea of having control of the car taken away from me.” (Sue)
    • “I can see the appeal to some, but I’d never want to travel in a driverless car as I enjoy driving too much. There are also too many unanswered questions about practicality and safety” (Steve)


Why are people undecided about driverless cars?
  • Some people see the potential, but think certain details need to be more carefully considered
    • “Like the idea in principle, but have reservations about insurance, increase in cars on the road and potential loss of jobs for those currently paid to drive.” (S)
    • “While there are still cars with drivers on the road, I would be worried that a “driverless” car would be more vulnerable to bad driving than one I drove myself.” (Brian)


  • Some see driverless cars as the future, but perhaps “not in their lifetime”
    • “Perhaps in 20 or 30 years’ time there will be loads more driverless cars and even in 50 years’ time flying cars?” (Freda)
    • “It won’t happen in my lifetime, but it would get rid of the idiots on the road.” (Jenny)


This suggests a complex picture is emerging, often with more questions as opposed to people being definitive “supporters” or “rejecters” of driverless cars. Safety and convenience are extremely prominent issues emerging time and again. Driverless car manufacturers will have to emphasise the benefits in these areas in order to drive adoption of their products in the future. It will be fascinating to see how things progress and whether we will all be chauffeured around in driverless cars in our lifetimes or not.


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