Seven in ten Australians want a self-driving car to take over when they feel tired or bored, and just under half already recognise autonomous vehicles will be safer than a human driver.
This is the result of the first comprehensive national study into what Australians think about driverless vehicles, released today.
The inaugural study coordinated by the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI) and its academic partners surveyed more than 5,000 Australians aged 18 and over and will be used to inform public policy, regulation, research, marketing and vehicle design.
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."
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 $8,977 on average for a fully-automated car.
61 per cent said they would prefer to hand over control to a self-driving car when they felt uncomfortable driving manually, but only 25 per cent said they they'd use a driverless car to pick up their kids. The most likely activity Australians said they would spend their time doing in driverless cars was observing scenery (78 per cent) followed by interacting with passengers (76%)
52 per cent would use the time to rest but only 28 per cent said they would be likely to sleep in a driverless car. Many Australians are also keen to make their daily commutes more productive with 36 per cent saying they would spend their reclaimed driving time doing work.
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," Regan said.
The research comes on the back of an Economic report released by ADVI last month, 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.