15 Aug 2019

Britons lag in support for driverless cars

British people are the least supportive nation in their attitude towards driverless cars, or indeed any form of autonomous vehicle (AV), according to a study across six territories (United Kingdom, United States, Australia, China, Singapore and Hong Kong).

By David Cowan

thansak253700 / Shutterstock.com


A report, published by Kennedys law firm, is one of the largest on this topic and the first to explore public support for all autonomous vehicles; not just driverless cars. In this study, The future of transport: A brave new world?, researchers polled over 6,000 people as well as gaining insights from key industry leaders across the globe.

Fewer than a third of UK respondents (28%) say that they support the idea of fully autonomous vehicles compared to 75% in China and 81% in Hong Kong;
Only 48% registered their support for partially autonomous vehicles; the joint global lowest level. The main reason for UK public concern is safety (67%), with respondents specifically placing trust in human judgement over computers (63%). Other reasons include fear of hackers (56%) and insurers increasing the cost of car insurance (45%) following widespread adoption.

Furthermore, the UK lags behind the rest of the world in its understanding of autonomous vehicles. Though 60% of survey respondents register a ‘high level of understanding’ of the benefits and social implications, this is comparatively low when measured against understanding in Singapore (74%) and China (68%) in particular. Lack of public understanding is a key factor in undermining public support, a point which UK policymakers will need to address.

The UK’s attachment to the status quo means Britons are far less able to imagine a fundamentally different future of transport for the UK. Only one in three (36%) of Britons agree that by 2039 our roads will have a fully functioning autonomous vehicle network in place. In territories with less of a history of car ownership, agreement levels are far higher – as high as 75% in China.

Richard West, Head of Liability and Innovation at Kennedys, says “The UK public clearly has stronger reservations about the adoption of autonomous vehicles compared to the rest of the world. In China, Hong Kong and Singapore, vehicle automation is already broadly accepted and supported, while the UK public’s support is far more limited, which could act as a barrier to us harnessing the widespread benefits of this technology. The UK government has already demonstrated its appetite for broader implementation of this technology in developing a legislative framework to speed up its introduction. The obstacles to overcome are in the UK public’s perception.”

This content is available to subscribers only. To continue reading...

Sign in to your account

Take a one-month free trial

If you aren't a subscriber, please sign up for a one-month free trial to access all Robotics Law Journal content, including:

  • All premium online content
  • Daily newsletters
  • Breaking news alerts

If you require further information, please email [email protected] or contact call us on +44 (0) 20 7193 5801.