Recently Britain’s car industry enthusiastically welcomed a new Bill announced in the Queen’s speech to “ensure the UK is at the forefront of technology for new forms of transport, including autonomous and electric vehicles”. But have incidents like the investigation into the death of a man in an automated Tesla vehicle in Florida shaken people’s confidence in the new technology?

Are human drivers to be trusted?

Although welcomed by Britain’s car industry, there has been a mixed reaction to driverless cars from the British public. A recent survey undertaken by Momentum found an astonishing 54% of Bristolians wouldn’t trust driverless cars. People often cite trust and lack of human intervention as key barriers to adopting driverless car technology.

But maybe driverless cars can sometimes be safer drivers than people? Handing over control to artificial intelligence may seem like a strange way to tackle road safety, but research has found that human error is a factor in more than 90% of driving related deaths and injuries. Amongst the same Bristolians who said they wouldn’t trust driverless cars, a vast majority admitted to suffering from mild to serious road-rage (71%) and rare to frequent speeding (79%, with 3% speeding every time they drove). Obviously safe driving is always the best option- driverless or not! To be super safe, the technology behind autonomous driving will need to adapt to driver and road habits.

Driverless technology and security

Is driverless technology safe from hackers? Concerns have already been raised over whether driverless technology software could be easily hacked by criminals. With hacking being a widespread issue in a range of industries from banking to entertainment, security concerns are understandable. Malfunctioning cars could be very dangerous in the wrong hands.

Insurance and legal implications have also left some people scratching their heads. A whole raft of new guidelines and safety legislation will need to be created and tested in the courts. In January 2016 the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it may waive some safety rules to allow more driverless cars to operate on U.S. roads to increase development of self-driving vehicles.

Driverless technology and industry

As with any new technological innovation, some industries stand to lose, others gain. It remains to be shown whether new jobs and opportunities created by the driverless car would mitigate negative industrial impacts. Many car manufacturers are watching nervously from the side-lines, others jumping in full steam ahead with the new tech.

U.S. technology giant Google has made it their mission to bring autonomous vehicles into the mainstream ahead of traditional car manufacturers. They are currently paying $20ph for people to test their prototypes on public U.S. roads. Googles self-driving car had its first crash incident earlier this year when the car hit a bus at 15mph while moving to avoid sandbags on the side of the road. But this minor accident hasn’t deterred the tech giant from charging on with their driverless fleet.

Driverless technology and positive change

What about all the positive opportunities driverless cars are bound to bring? The introduction of driverless cars will mean increased driving opportunities and accessibility for the elderly, disabled and young, as well as improvements to air quality and congestion.

Paul Willcox, Nissan’s European Chairman, has welcomed the new tech with open arms: “autonomously-equipped vehicles will improve the safety and well-being of drivers, with fewer collisions and reduced traffic congestion. The UK economy can also benefit, by playing a pivotal role in the global automotive industry estimated to be worth £900bn by 2025”.

Driverless technology will also change how we learn to drive

Learning to drive in the UK is also changing. The changes described in the new Queen’s Bill will also affect the way in which Britons will learn to drive cars. The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has stated: “DVSA will reform the driving test (and pre-test learning) to encourage more real life driving experience and ensure that it takes account of local variations and increasing vehicle automation”.

Mark Hall from Momentum Driving School has commented: “With the current development into autonomous vehicles and ongoing trials it seems inevitable that the technology will affect the way we drive in the future. It’s great to see the DVSA thinking ahead about how this may affect the way we teach and test people’s driving going forward”.

Would you trust a driverless car? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us.