Wednesday, 27 June 2018 01:14

Aussie drivers have a 'lack of trust' in autonomous cars

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A study prepared by Smith's Lawyers of 980 Australian drivers between January and June 2018 shows concern over autonomous self-driving cars, with only 22% of drivers stating they'd trust such cars.

So-called self-driving autonomous cars have been in the news of late, primarily because they've been crashing into people and killing them, with the latest example being of an autonomous Uber car in the US having the driver watching a "The Voice" video rather than paying attention.

The automatic brakes were reportedly disabled to avoid harsh braking incidents and because the person in the passenger seat was supposed to be paying attention at the wheel, despite the car being self-driving, and because that person was watching a video on their phone, they didn't brake when a cyclist was in the path of the car.

Reports said the car's software detected the cyclist six seconds before impact, but left the braking up to the person in the driver's seat. But as automatic collision avoidance braking was off, the person was hit, and sadly died.

What it ultimately seems to mean is that autonomous self-driving car technology is "nearly" there, but with good enough the enemy of good, or even great, the technology clearly isn't even good enough yet.

These scenarios could well be playing on the minds of drivers worldwide, wondering about the safety of self-driving cars, so the results from the survey that Smith's Lawyers recently conducted aren't a surprise – or at least, not to me.

Smith's Lawyers discovered that "the majority of drivers want to have control of their vehicle at own times which casts doubt on the demand for semi-autonomous tech such as that used in Tesla Autopilot which is likely to trickle down cheaper models over the coming years".

Can self-driving cars overcome these obstacles?

We're told that "The technology behind self-driving cars is still extremely new. While these obstacles are certainly challenging, there's little doubt that self-driving cars will be a reality in a matter of years.

"The constant innovation that is happening in the worlds of technology and automation ensure that these obstacles will one day be seen as small bumps in the road on the way to a driverless world."

So, what are the results of the survey?

The results, listed below (and in an infographic at the end of this article) are published in a blog posted entitled: "Seven Problems Self-Driving Cars Need to Overcome".

The survey found:

  • 21% of Aussie drivers would trust a self-driving car.
  • 79% of Aussie drivers would not trust a self-driving car.

 Broken down a bit further then people responded as follows to the question "Would you trust an autonomous (self-driving) car?"

  • 7.1% = Yes – it’s the future.
  • 14% = Yes, if it had been tried, tested and proven safe.
  • 58.2% = No, I like to have control of my car at all times.
  • 2.9% = No, they don’t exist.
  • 17.8% = No, I can drive better than any robot.

In the article, written by a person who appears to be a US-based freelance article writer named Adam Luehrs, we're told that "self-driving cars are the future of the highways, back roads and streets of the world".

Luehrs seems to have been able to autonomously self-drive himself off the Internet, with his LinkedIn page seemingly deleted and no record of him that I could find on Facebook or elsewhere, but he is a prolific writer as can be seen here

That aside, Luehrs asks: "The only question is whether or not we can all expect to go along on a bumpy ride while the technology is being rolled out. There are many scenarios that self-driving cars just aren’t ready to overcome yet. How far away are we from perfect self-driving automobiles?"

He takes a look at the "seven problems self-driving cars need to overcome before they can become mainstream products", and those are listed below, but for his detail on each problem area, please go to the blog at Smith's Lawyers

  1. Eye contact
  2. Judgment calls
  3. Snow
  4. Kangaroos
  5. Legal responsibility
  6. Cost
  7. Lack of trust

All the detail for the problem areas above is here, with kangaroos and lack of trust via the locally sourced survey results, presumably added to localise Luehrs' article to make it extra relevant for local audiences (and drivers!).  

My own view is that reliable driverless cars are obviously on the way, but it may simply take just a bit longer than today's proponents are expecting.

I wish they were here now, I'd happily use one and make use of the time commuting doing work, or sleeping, or anything I wanted, but that said, I do love to drive, and if that ever ceases being possible in the future, I'll miss it while enjoying the benefits.

Until then, drive safely, and if you see a driverless car on the road before they're more common that today's cars, drive extra safe!

Smith's Lawyers also has several other car articles you can read about at its official blog here, with two of note being "USA Distracted Driving Survey: Male Drivers More Likely to Multitask, SMS and Check Out Pedestrians" and "The End of the Road? What Driverless Cars Mean for the Humble Roadtrip."


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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