New self-driving consumer opinion survey identifies continuing negativity and gender and age divides.

New self-driving survey finds 45% of Brits are “Not AV’ing it”

We’ve covered self-driving consumer opinion surveys since the earliest days of Cars of the Future.

From the University of Greenwich study which found that 43% of 925 respondents “felt positive” towards the concept of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), way back in 2018, to last year’s Insurance Institute for Highway Safety research, in which 35% said self-driving technology was “extremely appealing” while 23% said it was “not at all appealing”. Is that progress?

A new survey by Go.Compare car insurance has found that 45% of the UK population don’t like the idea of autonomous vehicles, they are, apparently, “Not AV’ing it”.

What’s more, it found a gender divide too, with 26% of men actively liking the idea, compared to just 13% of women, and an age divide, with more younger Brits, 32% of 18-24-year-olds, keen on the idea.

Ryan Fulthorpe, of Go.Compare, said: “While we’re still a way off AVs being an everyday occurrence on UK roads, it appears that may actually suit a lot of motorists for the moment, as they’re not quite ready for this type of travel.

“It’s understandable that there’s some reluctance as the use of AVs has always seemed like a futuristic idea, but with Ford and Nissan both making significant in-roads with the technology, and other manufacturers undoubtedly looking to the future, it’s fast becoming a reality.

“However, if we want to promote mainstream adoption of this type of travel, the general public will understandably need to see more proof that the technology is sound and is a safe way to travel, as well as it having other benefits, such as easing congestion in cities.”

The most famous example in the ‘Ave it! genre is, of course, the John Smiths advert starring Peter Kaye’s no-nonsense approach to football training. Enjoy!

The legendary Peter Kaye John Smiths advert – ‘Ave it!

When can we expect autonomous vehicles – AVs – in the capital?

Will London be the first UK AV city?

Automated vehicles (AVs) are the emerging superstars of 21st century mobility, from uber-luxurious driverless cars, to more ubiquitous robotaxis and delivery vans.

Self-driving tourism company, Autoura, provides a handy AV rollout tracker, with China having by far the most entries. In the US, robotaxis are already charging for rides in San Francisco and Phoenix.

The UK also pushed on this year. Oxbotica conducted a successful on-road test of its skateboard-like zero-occupancy EV, while CAVForth ran a single-decker autonomous bus in a landmark trial in Scotland. Both made global headlines.

MPs on AVs

As David Wong, senior technology and innovation manager at The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), told The Transport Select Committee in October: “The next step is to remove the safety driver altogether, whether the safety driver is inside the vehicle or remote.”

We face unique challenges, as Inma Martinez, author of The Future of the Automotive Industry, noted: “In the UK you have a lot of 60mph rural roads where you can barely see what’s coming. Then you have London, which is like no other city. It is a costly challenge to test smart road infrastructure without creating congestion.”

Quite so, but existing systems are astronomically expensive. Transport for London (TfL) came close to being bankrupt earlier this year, rescued by last-minute government funding. Paris subsidises its system to the tune of around €8bn a year.

Autonomy’s London City Summit on AVs
Autonomy’s London City Summit on AVs

At Autonomy’s recent London City Summit, the stat of the day was the TfL target that, by 2041, 80% of journeys in the capital should be either by public transport or active travel.

A panel moderated by Professor Nick Reed, chief road safety adviser at National Highways, discussed the potential role of AVs, with Jakob Kammerer, senior product manager at Bosch, commenting: “Our trials show that people are curious about self-driving. Transparency always helps. We explain what we are doing and why – to make improved mobility for everyone. Once they see that a product is good and solves a problem, they will adopt it very quickly.”

Margarethe Theseira, of Bath-based engineering consultancy, Buro Happold, predicted that “the real benefits will come when everything is fully automated”, but worried that “it will be a rich person’s toy”.

Designer Marco Mazzotta, of Heatherwick Studio, mused on how cities might evolve architecturally with widespread AV adoption. He pointed to the huge amount of parking space that could be freed up, asking: “What will we use the space for? Is it going to be public or private?”

Other AVs

A later panel looked at the rapid rise of e-scooter hire and, eventually, these could also be self-driving. Years ago, Paul Priestman, famous for designing Virgin’s Pendolino train, described an e-scooter with a “take me home button”.

Yet there’s growing recognition that, when it comes to cars, the S in SEA (shared, electric and autonomous) is the most problematic.

Who wouldn’t want to own the incredible Audi Grandsphere concept car, advertised on telly during the World Cup? It has a “hands-off” mode, with a steering wheel which folds away, and aims to “redefine high class travelling”. It’s unapologetically exclusive.

Conversely, another Priestman-linked project, Dromos, offers a different mass transit solution, using small AVs running on-demand on dedicated routes.

Dromos AV proposal
Dromos AV proposal for Cambridgeshire

“Users want a ride quality comparable to that of a taxi, but at the price of a bus ticket,” said co-founder Dr Martin Dürr. “Privacy is an important topic, along with convenience and cleanliness.

“Pilots have shown that passengers have very little, if any, desire to share a driverless vehicle with a stranger. Actually, people are willing to pay a premium not to share. We provide capacity at a much better cost per mile.

“Following excellent discussions with the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), we have moved a lot of our attention and value chain to the UK.

“We have proposed a solution for the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority and are in discussion with Manchester, The Ministry for Transport in Scotland and others.”

Please note: a version of this article was first published by the Institute of the Motor Industry’s MotorPro magazine.

AV: adult video, autonomous vehicle or both?

It was inevitable, but it has still caused a stir – a couple have filmed a sex tape while travelling in a Tesla Model X in Autopilot mode on a US highway.

Media outlets across the globe reported that amateur porn star Taylor Jackson, of Los Angeles, performed the dangerous deed with her boyfriend and posted it on adult site PornHub.

She then took to Twitter to inform Tesla boss Elon Musk: “Holy shit, I made @Tesla the #1 search on pornhub.”

While Tesla warns all its drivers to “stay alert, drive safely and be in control of the vehicle at all times”, Musk couldn’t resist commenting: “Turns out there’s more ways to use Autopilot than we imagined… shoulda seen it coming…”

Two people who did predict it were UK academics Scott Cohen, of the University of Surrey, and Debbie Hopkins, of the University of Oxford.

In their 2018 paper Autonomous vehicles and the future of urban tourism, they noted: “While shared connected and autonomous vehicles (SCAVs) will likely be monitored to deter passengers having sex or using drugs in them, and to prevent violence, such surveillance may be rapidly overcome, disabled or removed.

“Moreover, personal CAVs will likely be immune from such surveillance. Such private CAVs may also be put to commercial use, as it is just a small leap to imagine Amsterdam’s Red Light District on the move.”

The development is also a blow for the acronym AV in the driverless world.

Already facing stiff completion from CASE (connected, autonomous, shared and electric), SDC (self-driving car) and others, it must now contend with adult video being a related search term.