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Aussie drivers doubtful of autonomous vehicle benefits

Tue, 1st Oct 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Australian drivers are less keen to jump in an autonomous vehicle than drivers in France – or at least that's what a recent study by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) says.

Researchers conducted a survey of 1563 drivers in Australia, France and Sweden about whether or not they would one day have an autonomous vehicle that could drive for them.

QUT Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland associate professor Ioni Lewis says that autonomous vehicles are broken down into different ‘levels' of autonomy, of which level 4 is recognised by international standards as a highly automated vehicle that can drive itself.

“Realistically, we are still some time away from Level 5 cars, which completely drive themselves and don't even need a steering wheel.  At the moment people can buy up to Level 2 cars – these are vehicles that still require a driver but can do some basic tasks, like braking, by themselves,” explains Lewis.

Lewis and her team found that drivers in France were more likely to embrace autonomous vehicles compared to those in Australia and Sweden – but there may be a good reason for it.

 “France has been trialling automated cars for several years and is a world leader, so we think this increased level of community exposure to these cars may have contributed to the differences in intentions found between the countries,” she says.

“We also wanted to identify the psychological reasons behind people's intentions.  In France and Sweden, people's ‘attitude' (their emotions and beliefs) toward these vehicles was the biggest predictor but in Australia it was ‘performance expectancy', which reflected how much they thought a highly automated vehicle would actually assist them.

Fellow QUT researcher Dr Sherrie-Anne Kaye conducted another Queensland survey on 505 drivers about the advantages and disadvantages of autonomous vehicles.

“They reported quite a few advantages, including that these cars would make driving easier for elderly people and people with disabilities, reduce the human errors that contribute to crashes, and enable people to multi-task during their commutes,” she says.

“But some of the common concerns included possible technology malfunctions, hacking and privacy issues, who was legally liable, problems with mixed traffic environments (automated and non-automated vehicles) and losing the enjoyment of driving a car themselves.

“The perceived barriers to one day driving an automated car included the high cost, a lack of trust and control, safety (for themselves and others) and current legislation.

Autonomous vehicle trials are already happening in Australia; while the national Transport Commission is revising laws that will allow automated vehicles to drive safely and legally on Australian roads. By 2020 the NTC aims to have an end-to-end system of regulation for automated vehicles in Australia.

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