Are you ready for driverless cars?

Moving Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 10 September 2019

We could be sharing the road with autonomous vehicles within five years. 

Autonomous vehicles may be just around the corner, but Victorian motorists are not ready to move out of the driver’s seat yet.

As the biggest transport revolution since the internal combustion engine is set to hit roads, RACV research has revealed Victorians are mostly unprepared to adopt the new technology.

According to the survey of 1040 RACV members across metropolitan and regional Victoria, two in three motorists don’t think we are ready for autonomous vehicles (AVs), citing concerns about the technology’s reliability and the readiness of legal and regulatory framework.

Overwhelmingly, those surveyed said they loved driving and wanted to remain behind the wheel.

There’s also a sense among many motorists that driverless cars are science fiction. More than 40 per cent of people surveyed think the widespread adoption of AVs won’t happen for more than 20 years, with some suggesting even 50 years.

But RACV’s manager of vehicle engineering, Michael Case, says autonomous vehicles are coming sooner than many of us think and urges Victorian motorists to prepare themselves.

“The infrastructure and legislation are not ready yet, but motorists could be sharing the road with driverless AVs in less than five years,” he says.

“We already have early-stage AVs available now that provide some automated driver assistance, but it is difficult to predict when driverless vehicles will be allowed on our roads.”

He says while RACV members surveyed were concerned that AVs will cause accidents, researchers believe they will make our roads safer as the vehicles’ built-in systems can detect and prevent collisions.

“Older motorists are most concerned about the arrival of AVs, but they could be the biggest beneficiaries with the advanced technology keeping them mobile for longer,” says Michael.

Regardless of when AVs are rolled out, the “overriding sentiment from RACV’s research into AVs is that very few drivers are willing to give up driving completely”.

He says the Society of Automotive Engineers International describes six levels of automation: Levels 0 to 2, where the driver is constantly in control, even if some automation is working, and Levels 3 to 5 which mean you are not driving when automated features are engaged. The video below explains the differences in levels of automation.

Michael says many car manufacturers will begin to roll out Level 3 vehicles with ‘conditional’ automation soon. These cars can drive themselves under certain conditions, most likely on highways.

BMW and Mercedes Benz are more ambitious, predicting they will produce Level 4 and Level 5 cars, which can drive completely automated, within the next decade.

RACV’s survey shows although 76 per cent of respondents believe they have a good knowledge of AV technology, the researchers found they had a “very superficial understanding”.

“Many are excited by the possibilities for the new technology and many think it will be good for society,” researchers say. 

The potential benefits cited include improved safety, removing human error, better mobility for the elderly or disabled and better traffic flows, as shown in the video below.

Those most in favour of AVs were aged 35 to 45, with 54 per cent of this age group supporting the technology, while 43 per cent of those aged 50 to 64 viewed them as positive. Interestingly, only about a third of those aged 65 and over – the age group who could increase their mobility with driverless vehicles, were positive about the advent of AVs. 

“Consistently it is city drivers, males and younger people who are the most positive and optimistic about the potential for the new technology to be a benefit to themselves and society,” researchers say.

To read the survey, click here.