Brexit could harm driverless car research, warns IRU

Brexit could harm autonomous vehicle research

The International Road Transport Union (IRU), which represents the interests of bus, coach, taxi and lorry operators in more than 100 countries, has said that a no-deal Brexit could harm future innovation and the UK’s driverless car future.

UK transport secretary Chris Grayling’s pledge to bring driverless cars to British roads by 2021 could be thwarted by a no-deal Brexit, according to the IRU.

“Autonomous vehicles will make roads safer, but are people ready? It’s certainly not going to happen overnight,” said Marc Billiet, senior advisor at IRU.

However, Mark Bridger, SVP at information management company OpenText, argued that automotive companies would need to ensure they were doing more than delivering the most innovative connected technology. They will need to address consumer concerns and ensure the technology is safe and reliable to install the level of trust needed for mass adoption in the UK, he said.

OpenText recently surveyed 2000 UK consumers on their attitudes towards AI-enabled autonomous cars. The research revealed that one in five (21%) British citizens think that Brexit will impact the UK’s ability to innovate in the area of artificial intelligence.

The survey has also revealed confusion around the extent to which the UK public believe driverless cars will infiltrate their daily lives in the coming years, highlighting a mixture of inevitability and wariness when it comes to embracing the trend enabled by AI technology. While 60% of UK citizens think there will be a time when driverless and autonomous cars outnumber crewed vehicles, over half (52%) of respondents would never consider buying a driverless car or renting one on a per-use basis, even if they were priced similarly to a normal car.

Nearly a third (31%) of UK citizens think there will be more driverless and autonomous cars on the road than normal cars in the next ten to 15 years. However, when OpenText ran a similar survey in 2017, nearly twice as many people (66%) thought this would be the case.

In 2017, 24% said they would feel comfortable being a passenger in a driverless or autonomous car, yet this figure dropped to 19% when the survey ran this year.

Moreover, only 23% of UK citizens responding to the 2018 survey think the ability of driverless and autonomous vehicles to obey all traffic rules will improve road safety, down from 42% in 2017. Today, only one in ten think this technology will make roads safer, but only on UK motorways.

“The results of this research highlight that we’re very much in an era of transition for automotive vehicles,” said Bridger. “The mix of confusion, fear, optimism and inevitability in the minds of UK citizens shows that whereas some AI-enabled technologies have moved seamlessly into our lives, more game-changing offerings like autonomous vehicles will take time to be embraced.

“Yet automotive companies need to ensure they are doing more than delivering the most innovative connected technology. Addressing consumer concerns and loss of confidence will be critical for success and take up too. They need to ensure the technology is safe and reliable in order to install the level of trust needed for mass adoption.”


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