The shape of things to come?

Half of people with mobility issues and six in ten overall would have a higher quality of life with an autonomous and connected vehicle, a study by the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders) has shown.

Over 70% of respondents aged between 17 and 24 (and the most the most positive demographic) believed that autonomous cars could offer improvement to their lives – while the general population was 56% positive overall. Of course this still leaves 44% who still had reservations about the technology.

The two largest stress-relieving benefits for those surveyed were autonomous braking and self-diagnosis of faults, although the main plus point was the relative ease of going out. Almost half - 49% - of those with mobility-related disabilities said that they would get into an autonomous vehicle if it was available now.

More widely, the introduction of mobility schemes suggests money savings for young people, with 29% agreeing that the cost of owning and running a car was restrictive, while 33% thought public transport was expensive and irregular.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive said: “The benefits of connected and autonomous vehicles are life-changing, offering more people greater independence, freedom to socialise, work and earn more, and access services more easily. While fully autonomous cars will be a step change for society, this report shows people are already seeing their benefits. The challenge now is to create the conditions that will allow this technology to thrive, given how it will deliver wider societal advantages.”

Professor Will Stewart, vice president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, added: “Driverless vehicles have huge potential to transform the UK’s transport network and acceptance is growing, but there is work to be done before everyone is won over. There is a great opportunity to educate these groups about the benefits and potential offered by this new technology.

“The benefits of driverless cars are improved road safety, reduced congestion, roads free of parked cars and lower emissions. Wider public acceptance and trust are crucial, particularly for the older generation, who stand to benefit hugely with increased mobility, so the trials currently taking place must get to grips with the best ways to win over everyone – from car manufacturers to consumers – to the benefits of driverless cars.”

By Tracey McBain