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Thatcham company reveals 'self-driving' car myths

Thatcham Research study shows motorists are confused over driverless vehicles

John Herring

John Herring


01635 886633

Thatcham company reveals 'self-driving' car myths

CONFUSION over driverless cars means that some people think they can text behind the wheel or have a nap, according to an investigation conducted by Thatcham Research.

The research showed that 71 per cent of drivers around the world believe they can purchase a self-driving car, and that one in 10 drivers would be tempted to have a nap while using a so-called highway assist system, such as adaptive cruise control.

The #TestingAutomation study, commissioned by Thatcham Research, Euro NCAP and Global NCAP, discovered potentially dangerous false impressions around the apparent self-driving capability of new cars and the safe use of highway assist technologies.

Key findings from the study showed that 71 per cent of drivers globally and 53 per cent in the UK believed that they can purchase a car that can drive itself today.

Thatcham Research director of research Matthew Avery said: “Some carmakers are designing and marketing vehicles in such a way that drivers believe they can relinquish control. 

“Carmakers want to gain competitive edge by referring to ‘self-driving’ or ‘semi-autonomous’ capability in their marketing, but it is fuelling consumer confusion.

“This is exacerbated by some systems doing too much for the driver, who ends up disengaged.

“Our message is that today’s technology supports the driver.

“It is not automated driving and it is not to be relied upon at the expense of driver attentiveness.

“The driver is in control and must always remain alert.

“If used correctly, highway assist systems will improve road safety and reduce fatalities, but they won’t if naming and marketing convinces drivers that the car can take care of itself.”

Furthermore, 18 per cent of British motorists think that a car marketed as being capable of automatic steering, braking and acceleration allows them to “sit back and relax and let the car do the driving”.

Many respondents said that they would be tempted to break the law while using an assisted driving system by texting on a mobile phone (34 per cent), making a hand-held call (33 per cent) or having a brief nap (11 per cent).

Only half of drivers believe they would be liable in the event of a crash when using assisted driving systems.

The top three brands drivers believe sell fully self-driving cars today were Tesla, BMW and Audi.

Association of British Insurers head of motor and liability Rob Cummings said: “The arrival of autonomous vehicles will undoubtedly bring a wide array of benefits for modern society through improved safety and convenience, but Thatcham Research have demonstrated that there are still worrying misconceptions about the current state of vehicle technology.

“It’s essential that consumers know exactly what their car can and can’t do and Thatcham Research are right to highlight their concerns today.”

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Article comments

  • NoisyNortherner

    29/10/2018 - 09:09

    Given that Tesla market their system as "Autopilot", is it any surprise that people are easily confused? It should be a requirement when purchasing a car with such a feature to clearly have the limitations spelt out.