5 driverless myths debunked
Technology and Business
In this article, we dive into the results of our brand-new survey and ask:
- Will autonomous vehicles really reduce our downtime?
- How will we build trust in driverless tech?
- Are we ready to give up ownership of our cars?
As driverless technology has moved out of the realm of pure theory and into reality, the way we talk about self-driving has changed. As a result, there is a huge mix of assumptions about AVs out there. But are all those ideas grounded in the actual users’ reality as we now know it, or are they hangovers from the days when self-driving was the stuff of science fiction?
To find out more, 2025AD has conducted research to gain insight into what ordinary people really think about driverless technology. After carefully compiling a list of queries, we sent a detailed questionnaire out into the world via various online media and received over 1,000 responses from self-selected individuals across Germany. So, what did they have to say?
Will autonomous vehicles reduce our downtime?
We’ve written before about AVs becoming workspaces and ‘working’ often appears in lists of what we’ll do in AVs, so it makes sense that many assume driverless cars will leave us even less time for rest. Going driverless will free up a huge amount of time for anyone who travels regularly, so it’s unlikely those extra hours will be spent on just one activity, but users seem inclined to devote travel time to anything but work. In our study, 30% said they’d actually use the spare time to relax.
Of course, there may be some disconnect between what people say and what they would actually do. Yet a recent study in Bangladesh which measured activities undertaken in chauffeur-driven cars against the same subjects’ ambitions for AVs found that the two matched up almost perfectly. So perhaps there is good reason to believe that if people say they would relax – and using social media, sleeping and listening to music all scored highly in that study – they will do just that.
Will flashy features determine which models are most popular?
Now that there are plenty of AVs out there, the differences between them are becoming clearer and the features we’re seeing in driverless concept cars suggest that infotainment and comfort or design elements are becoming more important.
But, according to our survey, practicality, and the features which ensure it, is still the biggest draw for most. When assured that safety would be guaranteed, nearly 30% prioritised practicality over all else, showing that what’s most important in human-driven vehicle purchases, namely safety and efficiency, remains at the top of the list when it comes to AVs too. Flashy features are just a bonus.
Are men more prepared to go driverless?
The answer, it seems, is yes. Existing research finds that women are less eager to adopt driverless tech as they tend to be more wary of potential safety concerns. That’s evident in other surveys, where more women (79%) than men (62%) have admitted to feeling uncomfortable with the idea of riding in an AV and more (53% to 32%) have expressed a preference for riding with a backup driver.
Our study supports this split, but suggests that, with time, the gap between genders is narrowing. Where the previously mentioned research, all conducted pre-2019, found a significant divide, in our results that has reduced to just 12 percentage points. Now 47% of men readily accept driverless, as do 35% of women . In the place of gender, age is becoming a more significant factor as young people across the board are now more open to using AVs than their older counterparts.
Will the future of travel be shared?
While human-driven cars have followed a model of personal ownership, it’s assumed that the dawn of driverless will disrupt that. Robo-taxis which are ‘always on’ and public transport shuttles for shorter journeys are expected to reinvent mobility, reducing congestion, making travel more efficient and removing the obstacles (such as high initial costs) of vehicle ownership.
The outbreak of a global pandemic has undoubtedly changed our approach to shared transport. Our survey, conducted towards the end of 2020 while Covid was still at the front of our respondents’ minds, found that, of those eager to ride in an AV, 66% would prefer to own rather than rent. But, with our cars parked 95% of the time and shared AVs offering benefits when it comes to the environment, cost and convenience for consumers, it still looks like ‘only the wealthy and fussy will bother to buy a car’.
Will trust in self-driving tech be built with time?
Principally, yes. However, there are limits to how much time alone will build confidence in driverless tech. For example, research shows that people are most willing to use AVs in controlled environments and least willing in areas with high pedestrian traffic or when there are no manual controls. Our trust, then, is directly linked to risk.
Nonetheless, 22% of our survey respondents, the largest percentage for a single response, said time in the market will be the most important proof of safety, suggesting that reliability is key. Another 20% would also look to test reports for reassurance though, far more than would trust recommendations from friends or celebrity endorsement. Manufacturers, then, must share their successes, and their failures, if we are to rely on AVs without hesitation.
There’s no question that the conversation around driverless tech is multi-faceted and ever expanding, so it’s difficult to find the one truth. However, our findings seem to support the idea that self-driving cars won’t be a sure-fire success as more than half of the respondents plainly stated they would currently not be interested. And that’s despite the fact that more and more driver assistance systems have saved thousands and thousands of lives over the past decades. Building trust through performance will be the key.
In our upcoming articles, we’ll take another look at our survey and discover more about what it will take for us to trust the technology and why some may never be convinced of the benefits of autonomous transport.
So, what do you think? Will the dawn of AVs reduce our downtime, or would you use the free time to relax? Would you rather buy or rent an AV? Is time all it will take for you to trust driverless tech? Let us know in the comments below.
5G expert Phil Cottom on the link between connectivity and driverless tech
Will everyone win in a driverless future? - An expert’s perspective
Submit your story
Become part of our autonomous revolution and submit your stories, images and videos
Stay up to speed with our weekly briefing. Enjoy autonomous driving content direct to your inbox