While carmakers are busy preparing more advanced autonomous driving vehicles, how accepting are the public when the new technology arrives? That is what a research project by Goodyear and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) aims to find out.

Building on a 2015 joint research project that examined how drivers interacted with others on the road, this year’s Goodyear-LSE research seeks to explore a number of rationales behind drivers’ responses to autonomous vehicles (AV).

Of the 1,500 UK respondents, the results show that only 25% would describe themselves as comfortable with the idea of using an AV, whereas 28% felt comfortable driving alongside one. On the other hand, 55% felt uncomfortable both using an AV and driving alongside one.

“I think that we can all agree that autonomous vehicles are coming. But the speed and impact remain an unknown factor for most drivers. Understanding how drivers experience the road today and how they feel AVs should fit into it will therefore be key to ensuring AV’s successful introduction,” said Carlos Cipollitti, director of the Goodyear Innovation Centre.

Safety was a key factor in the reasons given for the respondents’ levels of comfort with AVs, with 44% agreeing that “machines don’t have emotions so they might be better drivers than humans” and 41% answering “most accidents are caused by human error, so autonomous vehicles will be safer”.

However, 64% still required that a human driver be required in the vehicle, agreeing that “as a point of principle, humans should be in control of their vehicles.” Furthermore, 85% of UK respondents agreed that “autonomous vehicles could malfunction,” and 75% agreed that AVs should have a steering wheel.

“AVs are not simply another new technology. They are a technology that is gradually emerging into an intensely social space. It is therefore no surprise that a wide range of factors influence the public’s levels of openness towards them,” stated Dr. Chris Tennant, project leader LSE.

The research shows that respondents least receptive to AVs are those who find co-operating with other drivers easier, and are less excited about the technology. By contrast, those who are more open to AVs find driving more stressful and are more technologically optimistic, perhaps seeing AVs as easier agents to deal with on the road than other human drivers. Do you agree with the results of the study? What are your views on autonomous driving vehicles?