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Research suggests that currently, more than half the public has a cautious attitude when it comes to self-driving cars to the extent that they would be uncomfortable with either sharing the road with them or using them themselves.

Despite the rapid onset of technology and the progress of AI, it is the lack of ability to predict the actions of other road users and the perception that self-driving cars have struggled to reach the safety levels of the average human driver that puts people off.

However, according to Aria Babu, senior researcher at the Entrpreneurs Network, things have changed quite recently,

 “This year and last year, they’ve got better than human drivers. They’ve been tested on motorways and urban roads…there haven’t been any accidents.”

In fact, self-driving cars are being tested in the UK, and have, besides other locations, been regularly driving along the M40 motorway, in Oxford, and in Croydon.

In addition, recent proposed updates to the Highway Code are set to permit drivers to sit behind the wheel of a self-driving car and look at emails or watch TV – under certain circumstances.

Sébastien Krier, technology policy researcher at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Centre says,

“Self-driving cars will have fewer crashes and be much safer than humans…they don’t get tired, don’t get drunk, all these things.”

“There will be rare events when it (AI) thinks a person is a tree or something, but those mistakes are rare and getting rarer.”

As AI technology evolves, it is assumed that self-driving cars will become safer than human drivers, particularly on predictable environments such a motorways.

The problem with the transition is that people find it difficult to accept the unfamiliar. The solution to this is usually the passage of time and the evidence of improved safety.

Regulation and public consensus will be the main obstacle to uptake, as well as the need to establish responsibility in the event of a collision.

According to Krier,

“A lot of it is building trust, finding mechanisms to reassure the public.”

It may be that genuine autonomous driving is still a way off, but despite people’s innate reticence to hand over control, once they have become more familiar to the public, we can expect self-driving cars to become ubiquitous on our roads at some point in the future.