Thatcham Research Reveals Confusion Over `Self Driving’ Cars

New research by Thatcham has revealed the levels of confusion over semi autonomous cars, with many people believeing that cars can drive themselves in some sort of Minority Report scenario. The topic is interesting for car insurers because it highlights how drivers tend to form perceptions based on car advertising and movie scenes, rather than researching things in-depth.

On the upside, fatal road accidents in the UK are at their lowest levels in 40 years, largely thanks to the tech inside cars, like airbags, assisted braking, proximity sensors and the continued lowering of speed limits, enforced by cameras. But drivers will have to pay attention for some years to come before Jonny Cabs can ferry you down to Tesco for your worm-meal ding meals and fizzy pop. The reality is that fully automated cars that can cope with urban traffic, a variety of weather conditions and unexpected hazards like stray animals, e-scooter riders or falling debris from otehr vehicles, is still a long way off. 

Here’s some extracts from the Thatcham Report;

Thatcham Research is launching findings from its Trust in Automation consumer study[1], which has revealed that just over half of UK drivers think that they can buy a fully Autonomous[2]car today. This is despite the fact that only Assisted Driving systems, which require driver support, are currently available in the UK.


The false impression regarding the current availability of self-driving technology was found to be more prevalent in younger age groups (77% of 17–24-year-olds) than it was amongst those aged 55+ (41%). The figure rises to an astonishing 72% of the 2,000 drivers also surveyed in the United States.[i]

Drivers recognise potential societal benefit

In addition, the Trust in Automation study has revealed that 73% of UK motorists recognise the benefits of emerging Automated Driving technology.[ii]

When asked what they consider the key benefits of the technology to be, the most popular option was improving safety through removing human error (21%), followed by improving mobility for the elderly and disabled (14%) and reducing pollution through fewer traffic jams and unnecessary acceleration / deceleration (8%).

Very few drivers saw freeing up time to work (3%), entertain themselves (3%) or sleep (2%) as advantages to Automation.

Sounds good, but perhaps if Thatcham had asked if drivers saw “getting more time on social media apps” as a benefit, the results might be more realistic. Anyone who has ridden a motorcycle through stationary traffic knows 50% of drivers are on their phones when progress stops in roadworks. Once cars are self driving then drivers will log onto TikTok, Facebook or Whatsapp to break the boredom of the journey – it’s human nature.


Jonathan Dye, chair of the Automated Driving Insurer Group (ADIG) and head of underwriting, QBE said:

“The research clearly highlights it is critical for the safe deployment of self-driving vehicles that drivers (or in the future ‘users in charge’) have a clear understanding of a vehicle’s capabilities and therefore their obligations regarding its safe use.

“In addition to education and collaboration across industry sectors, a key element will be the sharing of data and the transparency of what each specific vehicle is capable of at a point in time. With some models likely to have the self-driving technology as ‘optional’, or as an ‘over the air update’, meaning it would be possible to change a vehicle’s capabilities overnight, it’s imperative the driver has a full and clear understanding of the vehicle’s limitations post update and that they are adequately protected by purchasing an appropriate insurance product.”

About alastair walker 11377 Articles
20 years experience as a journalist and magazine editor. I'm your contact for press releases, events, news and commercial opportunities at Insurance-Edge.Net

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