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Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance comparison expert
Posted
10 MAY 2024
6 min read
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Hands-free Future: How does the UK really feel about driverless cars?

In 2022, the UK government announced plans to start rolling out self-driving vehicles by 2025, and recently introduced laws that position the UK at the forefront of automated vehicle (AV) regulation. Despite this, our latest survey has revealed that one-third of Brits don’t think fully driverless cars will become common until at least 2033, and 21% don’t think they will ever be the norm on UK roads. 

With two-thirds of UK drivers admitting they wouldn’t purchase a fully automated vehicle when they become readily available, our research has delved deeper into UK driver’s attitudes toward AVs. The study investigated the top reasons why people might buy a complete AV, the biggest concerns about this type of vehicle and whether people think they should be introduced at all.

UK drivers’ attitudes towards driverless cars 

When it comes to driverless cars the survey revealed that there is still plenty of apprehension from UK drivers. In fact, 42% of Brits think that fully automated vehicles should never be introduced to our roads, though this opinion does differ significantly across the generations.  Only 16% of 17 to 24 year olds think they shouldn’t ever be allowed, while more than half (53%) of those aged over 55 are against having them on our roads.  

Despite government data suggesting that 88% of road collisions are caused in some part by human error, 62% of motorists don’t think there will be fewer accidents once completely driverless vehicles are on the roads. And a further 60% state that humans have a stronger hazard perception than any technology that could be put into a vehicle.

The locations around the UK most and least likely to get a driverless car

Interestingly, where we live in the UK can impact how we feel about this type of vehicle. Motorists in Birmingham are most likely to purchase an AV, with 24% agreeing they would be willing to do so when they become readily available. Followed closely behind by drivers in Cardiff (23%) and Sheffield (22%).

Rank City % who are willing to purchase a driverless car
1 Birmingham 24%
2 Cardiff 23%
3 Sheffield 22%
4 London 21%
5 Liverpool 19%

On the other end of the scale, drivers in Plymouth are the least likely to buy a driverless car, with 80% stating they wouldn’t be willing to do so. Those living in Norwich (76%) and Newcastle (72%) are also unlikely to invest in an AV.

Rank City % who are not willing to purchase a driverless car
1 Plymouth 80%
2 Norwich 76%
=3 Newcastle 72%
=3 Belfast 72%
4 Bristol 71%
5 Leeds 70%

The top reasons why Brits would choose a fully driverless car

As cited above, the government says that 88% of road collisions currently attribute human error as a factor. This raises the question of whether completely driverless cars could help reduce accidents caused by issues like speeding, tiredness, or lack of concentration. 

With this in mind then, it’s perhaps not surprising that the top reason that motorists gave for choosing a driverless car is that they think there could be less room for human error, with nearly half (47%) of those surveyed referencing this as the main reason. 

Another common reason for choosing a fully driverless car is the idea that it could decrease traffic wait times as all cars will be moving as one, with 41% of motorists suggesting this would be their main motivation for purchasing one.

The biggest concerns for buying a fully driverless car 

There seems to be some apprehension when it comes to self-driving vehicles and 27.7 million drivers say they wouldn’t be willing to buy one when they become readily available. But why exactly is this the case?

The biggest concern is around control, with 52% of drivers stating that they wouldn’t like not having full control of the vehicle themselves. Equally, a further 47% don’t like the fact that other drivers may not have full control, so might be less likely to react when on the roads.

Half of motorists think there is too much room for technological faults or failure and 43% are anxious about the possibility of the car being ‘hacked,’ which is something that is still being worked out at an industry level.

Rank Concern % of drivers who agree
1 I don't like that I won't be in control of the vehicle 52%
2 There is too much room for technological faults or failure 50%
3 I don't like that other drivers won't be in control of their vehicle, meaning they won't be able to react on the road 47%
4 I don't trust technology to have the ability to drive safely or accurately 45%
5 There is a possibility that the car could be 'hacked' 43%

 

When it comes to the attitudes of different generations, those aged between 17 and 24 are the most worried about technological faults and other drivers not being in control, with 38% of those in this age bracket stating these issues as their biggest concerns. 

On the other hand, the older generations are most concerned about not being in control themselves, with 60% of the over 55s citing this as their main issue with self-driving vehicles.

Author image Julie Daniels

What our expert says...

Julie Daniels, from the car insurance team at Compare the Market says, “Fully driverless cars could have a positive impact on our lives in a variety of ways, however, as our survey has shown, there is still some uncertainty about how secure this technology might be. 

When thinking about insuring a vehicle of this type, drivers must make sure they are properly covered as per the most up-to-date regulations. With the fast-moving advancements in this technology, there are likely to be additions to these regulations and the parameters in which drivers are covered by insurance providers.

Exactly what the future will look like for driverless cars isn’t quite known yet, but no matter if you’re hands-free or not, making sure you’re appropriately covered is a top priority.”

- Julie Daniels, Motor insurance comparison expert

Methodology and Sources 

The survey was carried out on 2,014 drivers aged 17+ in October 2023. 

The number of drivers in the UK was sourced from government data.