Key questions surrounding exactly how self-driving vehicles should behave continue to divide UK public opinion. That’s according to early indications from the eagerly anticipated research by Reed Mobility, supported by the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund (RJRF).
Figures published in February show that 17% of survey respondents “strongly agreed” with the suggestion that self-driving buses should “drive at speeds that keep up with the traffic flow (within the speed limit), even if this increases risk to pedestrians”. On the other hand, 16% of participants “strongly disagreed”.
Reed Mobility – run by Prof Nick Reed, formerly Academy Director at the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory – was one of two winners of last year’s RJRF 150 Competition, splitting the generous £150,000 prize with Eloy. We’ve covered both extensively here on Cars of the Future, of course!
The RJRF is a grant making charity funded by a legacy from William Rees Jeffreys, remembered as ‘the British Ambassador for Good Roads’.
Chairman of the Trustees at the RJRF, David Tarrant, said, “We saw how the Reed Mobility project would enable citizens to have a stake in the governance framework for self-driving vehicle deployment, increasing the likelihood that self-driving vehicles genuinely deliver the safety, efficiency and accessibility benefits that are promised.”
Reed Mobility founder, Nick Reed, added: “The support from the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund has enabled critical exploration into how self-driving vehicles should behave to align with the expectations of the communities into which they are deployed.
“These vehicles will potentially be sharing road space with motor vehicles and vulnerable road users and could dramatically improve road safety. However, in this safety critical context, the nature of self-driving vehicle operation behaviour is too important to be left solely in the hands of technology developers.
“This project will provide tools to enable manufacturers and regulators to engage meaningfully with the public over how the technology should operate. This means self-driving vehicle behaviour can be designed more appropriately and thereby ensure such vehicles are received more positively when they are deployed.”
More detailed findings are due to be published by Reed Mobility in June.