Thatcham Trust in Automation research, November 2022

Thatcham’s Avery and others comment on new Trust in Automation self-driving research

Share this article

Self-driving knowledge gap: Thatcham survey finds 52% of Brits wrongly believe driverless cars are already available

On 8 November, Thatcham, the UK motor insurance industry’s research centre, published the results of a new consumer survey on self-driving.

The Trust in Automation research was conducted by Opinion Matters, and involved questioning 4,000 car owners, half in the UK and half in America.

The headline finding was that 52% of UK drivers mistakenly believe that fully autonomous driving is possible today. In the US, this number rises to 72%.

Thatcham: 50%+ Brits  think full self-driving is already here
Thatcham: 50%+ Brits think full self-driving is already here

Avery on automation

Matthew Avery, chief strategic research officer at Thatcham Research, commented: “Realising the government’s stated safety ambition for automated vehicles is dependent on driver education. This can’t just be lip service.

“With more than half of the UK public believing that autonomous driving is here today, the perception is racing ahead of the reality.

“This demonstrates just how much work needs to be done to set realistic consumer expectations of the first vehicles offering limited self-driving functionality, when they do become available.”

More encouragingly, 73% of UK respondent said they recognised the benefits of emerging automated driving technology.

Thatcham: 73% recognise the benefits of emerging automated driving technology
Thatcham: 73% recognise the benefits of emerging automated driving technology

When asked what they consider to be the key benefits, the most popular option was improved safety (21%), followed by improving mobility for the elderly and disabled (14%) and reduced pollution (8%). Funnily enough, just 3% saw freeing up time to work as an advantage!

“Drivers are beginning to recognise that automation can deliver significant societal benefits in terms of safety, mobility and sustainability,” said Avery.

“However, with safety being such a high priority for drivers, accidents that do occur will be scrutinised under the media microscope, quickly eroding consumer confidence.”

Thatcham noted that, in November 2021, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) launched its guiding principles for automated vehicle marketing.

 “Although safety is seen by many to be a key benefit of automation, trust and confidence need to be nurtured over time,” said Avery.

“It is vital that all industry stakeholders come together to instil trust in automation by ensuring motorists have a firm grasp of their legal obligations and the performance limitations.”

Gooding on self-driving

Commenting on the Trust in Automation findings, Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “This research provides some valuable insights for policy-makers keen to usher in the start of automated driving.

“Given all the hype surrounding automated car technology, particularly coverage of autonomous cars and taxis operating in the US, it isn’t surprising that some people think self-driving cars are already available on the UK market.

“The most important point that this research highlights is the need to ensure drivers understand the limits of automated options when they do first appear on UK roads, particularly where the system requires the driver to stand ready to re-take control.”

Intriguingly, Jonathan Dye, chair of the Automated Driving Insurer Group (ADIG), and head of underwriting at QBE, added: “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.”

As a final point, we regularly criticise hyperbolic self-driving headlines, so kudos to This Is Money for the informed and nuanced: “Half of motorists incorrectly think you can buy self-driving cars today raising fears some may dangerously overestimate capabilities of existing tech”.

For further info, visit the Thatcham website.

Share this article

Author: Neil Kennett

Neil is MD of Featurebank Ltd. He launched in 2019.