Number of self-driving car enthusiasts has dropped

The second annual self-driving car survey by EastLink, with support from ARRB, has shown that in 2018, fewer people wanted a fully self-driving car.

Compared to the 2017 survey, more motorists want the latest driver assistance features like lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking.

The survey showed that a significant proportion of motorists expect that fully self-driving vehicles should be 100 per cent safe, with no possibility of ever being involved in a collision, even though this is an unrealistic expectation.

The desirability of hybrid and fully electric cars has increased further, with hybrid power now rivalling traditional petrol combustion.

This time around, more motorists think it’s unfair that electric vehicles avoid fuel tax, compared to those who think it’s fair. More motorists think fuel tax should be replaced by a per-kilometre road use charge compared to those who prefer the status quo.

The majority of motorists think any future road use charge should provide a discount for electric vehicles to encourage take-up.

EastLink Corporate Affairs and Marketing Manager, Doug Spencer-Roy, said, “More than 18,000 Victorian motorists fully completed the survey this year, which is a 20 per cent increase on last year.

“The EastLink survey continues to be one of the world’s largest surveys of motorists’ attitudes to self-driving and driver assistance technologies, vehicle connectivity, electric power and road use charging — technologies that are expected to converge in cars of the future,” he said.

Compared to the 2017 survey, although more respondents can imagine using hands-off driving on a freeway, fewer respondents want their next vehicle to be capable of fully self-driving.

“This reduction in desirability for fully self-driving vehicles indicates that expectations had become over-inflated by hype, and people are now becoming more realistic,” Mr Spencer-Roy said.

Eight in ten survey respondents would travel as a passenger in a fully self-driving car where the vehicle has a driver who is monitoring and able to take over control. However, the majority of respondents would not yet travel as a passenger in a fully self-driving car where the vehicle is completely driverless and there are no driving controls.

A significant proportion of respondents — 37 per cent of female and 28 per cent of male – expect that fully self-driving vehicles should be 100 per cent safe, with no possibility of being involved in a collision.

“When it comes to minimum acceptable safety, a significant proportion of people have unrealistic, unachievable expectations, which will be a significant hurdle for the autonomous vehicle industry to overcome,” Mr Spencer-Roy said.

In contrast to these mixed results for fully self-driving cars, usage of, and demand for, the latest safety and driver assistance features has increased in almost all cases compared to 2017, with larger increases seen among female respondents.

“EastLink anticipates that widespread adoption and use of the latest safety and driver assistance features — such as lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking — will significantly improve road safety by reducing the number and severity of crashes,” Mr Spencer-Roy said.

“These survey results support EastLink’s expectation that these features will become commonplace before fully autonomous vehicles.”

Compared to 2017, demand for connected car features is largely unchanged. A clear majority of male and female respondents still “definitely want” their next car to be connected to a data network for traffic warnings, road condition warnings and vehicle security features.

“This demonstrates the importance of EastLink’s trials of 5.9GHz infrastructure to vehicle communications which started this year,” Mr Spencer-Roy said.

Respondents are now even more likely to prefer hybrid power or 100 per cent electric for their next vehicle. Only 39 per cent of respondents are considering a traditional petrol combustion drivetrain for their next vehicle, whereas 80 per cent of respondents have that option in their current vehicle.

Mr Spencer-Roy said, “This year’s survey shows that the preference for hybrid power has increased and now rivals the preference for traditional petrol combustion power. The preference for 100 per cent electric has also increased.”

Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles may become a popular option for 100 per cent electric cars in Australia, with the potential ability to quickly top up Hydrogen at service stations eliminating “range anxiety”.

However, there is a significant awareness gap. While only eight per cent of respondents are unaware of battery electric vehicles, five times that proportion are unaware of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.

“Manufacturers and other stakeholders should raise awareness of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, to help with its emergence as a practical option for 100 per cent electric vehicles in Australia,” Mr Spencer-Roy said.

Significantly more respondents think it is not fair that fully electric vehicles use roads without incurring any fuel tax, compared to those who think it is fair.

Slightly more respondents think fuel tax should be replaced by a per-kilometre road use charge that every vehicle is charged, compared to those who prefer the status quo. However, nearly one in four respondents are undecided at this time.

If a road use charge is introduced by Governments in the future:

  • A large majority of respondents think off-peak trips should cost less per kilometre than peak period trips
  • More than half of respondents think fully electric vehicles should get a discount to encourage take up of fully electric vehicles, while less than one-third think there should be no discount for fully electric vehicles
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