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Majority of Australians want self-driving cars: ADVI research

The first driverless vehicle demonstration in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere took place in South Australia in November 2015.

According to research from the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative, seven in ten Australians want a self-driving car to take over when they feel tired or bored.

The research also found that just under half of Australians already recognise autonomous vehicles will be safer than a human driver.

The findings come from the first comprehensive national study into what Australians think about driverless cars, which was released this week.

The inaugural study coordinated by the ADVI and its academic partners surveyed more than 5000 Australians aged 18 and over.

The findings showed 82 per cent of Australians recognise that driverless vehicles will provide greater mobility for people with driving impairments and just under three quarters (73 per cent) wanted an autonomous car to transport them when they feel physically or mentally unable to drive manually.

Lead researcher, Professor Michael Regan, Chief Scientist-Human Factors at the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB Group) said: “It’s just under a year since ADVI led the first trial of autonomous cars on Australian roads, and fully driverless vehicles aren’t yet even available to the public, but the Australian public is already quite advanced in its thinking.”

“ADVI’s preliminary findings show the majority of the Australian community is already willing to trust self-driving cars in situations where they don’t feel capable to drive or when they would simply rather not because it’s boring or they’re in traffic.”

“Given the lack of community interaction with self-driving cars to-date, it’s encouraging that almost half (47 per cent) of the Australian population believe they will be safer than human drivers.”

Prof Regan said the fact that a quarter disagree driverless cars will be safer, and a quarter remain undecided, highlights the importance of continued community education by governments and industry to ensure the safety benefits are communicated and individual incidents don’t delay their safe introduction onto Australian roads.

“This research is a critical first step to understanding public sentiment towards driverless vehicles, so that government and industry can continue working to bring the community along on the journey towards a driverless future and all of the social, safety, economic, environmental and other benefits automation can bring.”

Interestingly for vehicle manufacturers, the research found that more than half (62 per cent) of Australians think they shouldn’t need to pay more for autonomous technology; but of those willing to spend more, they would invest an additional AU$8977 on average for a fully-automated car.

The 80-question survey was designed by ADVI’s Scientific Working Group and approved by the human ethics committee at the University of NSW. It will provide the most in-depth insight into Australians’ perceptions of driverless vehicles to date and form the baseline for ADVI’s proposed annual survey.

“ADVI’s academic partners have worked together to develop a scientifically designed survey that targets a large, truly representative, sample of the Australian population, which addresses those issues most important to its government, industry and academic partners. When the full findings from the research are published early next year, they will not only help inform the introduction of driverless vehicles in Australia, but inform similar initiatives going on around the globe,” Prof Regan said.

The research comes on the back of an Economic report released by ADVI in September, which found Australia could unlock $95 billion a year in economic value and generate 16,000 new jobs by taking a more proactive approach to the introduction of autonomous vehicles in Australia.

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