Consumers warm up to self-driving vehicles

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The Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion.
The Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion.

While self-diving vehicles face a few regulatory hurdles before they can become mainstream, 67% of adults across the globe would prefer to have their children ride in one, than with a stranger.

This is according to the Looking Further with Ford: The 2019 Trend Report, which reveals how technology trends are influencing behavioural change across key areas of our lives.

The survey, conducted by Harris Insights & Analytics, is based on 13 012 online interviews across 14 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Spain, United Arab Emirates, the UK and the US.

The report highlights that consumers are warming up to the concept of self-driving or autonomous vehicles (AV), as the technology edges closer to commercial deployment across the globe.

Ford forecasts that by 2030, one-third of vehicles around the world will be plug-in or all-electric, and another third will be hybrid.

The survey shows the ever-changing technology landscape is affecting citizens across the globe in different ways, with the majority saying the mobility journey is about much more than simply going from A to B, but rather about what commuters are able to do with their time along the way.

When asked about the biggest benefits of using an autonomous vehicle, 72% of millennials and 71% of Generation Z opted for having more free time, with 64% of Generation X and 51% of boomers also agreeing.

Another 69% of respondents believe self-driving cars and shared ride services will reduce the desire for private parking spaces.

"Transportation is changing in mind-bending ways, and with remarkable behavioural shifts. Technology is driving consumers to move faster, further and differently, and as commutes change, so does their ability to get stuff done," notes Ford.

"On average, Americans spend more time in their cars than they receive in vacation time. They spend an average of 321 hours in the car each year, mostly commuting to and from work, and receive an average of 120 hours of vacation.

Allied Market Research estimates the autonomous vehicle market will grow from $54.23 billion in 2019 to $556.67 billion in 2026.

The race to get self-driving cars on public roads is speeding up, with vehicle manufacturers and governments spending billions of dollars on preparing for the market.

Earlier this year, the UK government announced driverless cars could be in full use on Britain's roads by 2021, as it moves forward on advanced trials for self-driving vehicles.

In December 2018, Google subsidiary Waymo won the first approval to test cars with the launch of its self-driving commercial robo-taxi service, in Phoenix, Arizona.

A number of other companies are closing in, with Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler collaborating with arch-rival BMW to develop self-driving car technology.

The partnership will focus on developing the technologies for automated driving on highways, driver assistance systems, and parking features, which they aim to sell by mid-2020.

Daimler has licences to test its self-driving vehicles on public roads in Germany, the US and China, where it is the first foreign company granted permission to test its autonomous cars.

According to Reuters, Volvo's joint venture with Veoneer has won approval to begin hands-free testing of its software for self-driving cars on Swedish highways.

Experts say that not only will AVs transform the way we transport goods and people from point A to B, but its introduction will trigger similarly immense ethical implications. One of the key challenges for autonomous vehicles is centred around how they value human life. Who decides who lives and who dies in split-second decision-making? And, more importantly, how is that decision calculated?

According to a survey conducted by Forrester among AV practitioners across the globe, when listing their concerns around AV, their top-ranked worry was creating a reliable system (48%); followed by dealing with functional safety needs (37%) and another 37% were concerned about cyber threats.

According to a report by trends analysis firm Flux Trends, SA will have to wait for almost a decade before we start seeing the introduction of services such as self-driving taxis on public roads.

Vehicle manufacturer Suzuki predicts fully autonomous vehicles are unlikely to operate on South African roads in the near future due to poor infrastructure, high cost of the vehicle, and a number of unpredictable obstacles for drivers to navigate, including taxis, pedestrians, and even livestock, and other obstacles which would confuse self-driving cars.

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