No driver? No thanks
According to a new study produced last week by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers 66% of drivers in Great Britain don’t fancy at all the idea of being in a driverless vehicle moving at 70 miles an hour. I sympathise, because I am one of them! Unsurprisingly, young people are much more accepting of the idea; 45% of 25 to 36-year-olds said it wouldn’t be a problem for them. On the other hand, the older generation, of which I am one, were much more hesitant. Only13% of 65 to 74-year-olds and 8% of the over 75s welcomed the idea. 72% of women were cautious about the technology, saying they would be uncomfortable compared to 60% for men.
I’ve been driving for nearly 50 years, both in the United Kingdom and abroad, in both left and right-hand-drive cars with both manual and automatic transmissions and, not infrequently, at pretty high speeds. I consider myself, rightly or wrongly, to be a pretty good driver. It is, of course, one of the two things that men never admit to being bad at! However, for me, tooling along a motorway, freeway or autobahn at 70mph might seem like a piece of cake, but the prospect of just sitting there trusting the car’s technology to make all the decisions for me is truly horrifying.
I do not consider myself to be some kind of latter-day Luddite. I fully accept that the future of the automotive industry will be centred around driverless vehicles. I just don’t want to be in one. I also accept that the driverless vehicle will almost certainly be safer than the one with a human in control. After all, statistics show that 90% of road accidents in the UK are caused by driver error. Some of the driving I encounter on UK roads would make your hair curl. Driverless vehicles will not have a drunk at the wheel. So what’s my problem? It’s the leap of faith required to put my confidence in the technology. Perhaps that’s an older-generation or a female thing. It certainly doesn’t seem to be an issue for the young. Of course, by the time driverless vehicles are commonplace on our roads many of today’s sceptics will be dead and gone. Personally, I’d rather wait for nature and Old Father Time to take their course. I’ve never been a gambler and I’m not starting now.
Simon Duval Smith
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