Study reveals just 39% of Britons are ready to embrace driverless technology

  • Britain is divided over the future of driving – 35% remain firmly sceptical of driverless tech and Britain remains unprepared for the changes this technology is expected to bring
  • Fears over safety, and enjoyment of driving, are the biggest barriers to adoption of driverless technology
  • Families and people who find driving dull – not just tech early adopters – will be at the forefront of the future of driving

New data published today reveals Britain is deeply divided in its attitudes towards the future of motoring, and shows Britons are unprepared for the changes this technology will bring to road users. With only 39% of Britons ready to embrace driverless technology, and 35% sceptical of it, the industry will need to work together to educate and support the public in the transition to driverless technology.

Published by Direct Line Group, Britain’s leading personal motor insurer1(by in-force policies), the in-depth attitudinal study shows the main barriers to adoption are:

  • Safety fears: Just 32% believe driverless technology will make roads safer.
  • Lack of trust in ‘smart’ tech: Only 18% of Britons believe computers make better decisions than humans
  • Losing direct control: 67% of people said they would prefer a vehicle in which they are in control most of the time, with technology taking control only in an emergency.
  • Enjoyment of driving: 53% of drivers enjoy driving, while just 23% consider it a dull means to end.

The research categorises every driver in Britain based on their views on new in-car technology:

  • Seven distinct segments were identified through the research, which finds that people’s openness to driverless technology is shaped by attitudes, not traditional demographic factors.
  • “In-car Techies” will be the stereotypical early adopters of in-car technology. They love to drive and believe tech enhances their enjoyment of driving.
  • The driverless revolution will also be led by “Automation Optimists” and “Metropolitan Families”. Both segments can readily see the benefits, believing driverless cars will make journeys less stressful. “Automation Optimists” also find driving dull and really trust technology, whereas “Metropolitan Families” are unconvinced of the safety benefits.
  • While “Middle Laners” have distinct fears over the safety and cost of driverless cars. ”Retro Petrol Heads” and Risk-averse Traditionalists’ value control and enjoyment of driving and are strongly sceptical of driverless technology.

The study also reveals that questions over liabilities are a big challenge for the industry, with 45% of people believing manufacturers of driverless technology should be liable in an accident.

Paul Geddes, CEO of Direct Line Group: “Advances in driverless technology will cause seismic shifts for the motoring and insurance industry, and we need to understand what people’s attitudes, emotions and behaviours to this new technology will be. Our research illustrates the importance of communicating the benefits on road safety this technology is expected to have, and supporting the public in the transition to driverless technology. We also understand the importance of educating the public on how to correctly use this technology so that the safety benefits can be realised. Direct Line Group, and the wider industry, have a critical role in the development and adoption of driverless cars on our roads. Over the coming months we’ll begin conversations with the wider industry – to help shine a light on safety concerns and demonstrate the experiential benefits this technology may offer to drivers of today and tomorrow.”

For further information, please contact:

Direct Line Group: Ngozi Emeagi - 01651 831723

Brunswick: Alice Thomson/ Sophia Lazarus - 0207 4045959

Notes to editors:

This study draws on data from a nationally representative survey of 3000 British adults – including 2200 current drivers – exploring both current opinion and on-the-road behaviour, as well as attitudes to driverless vehicles, road safety, and ethical issues. Using detailed statistical analysis, it segments every British driver into one of seven driver types – based on their readiness to embrace (or reject) in-car technology, including driverless vehicles. Fieldwork was conducted online 14th – 19th December 2016 by Populus Data Solutions. The research was designed by Brunswick Insight, with additional analysis by The Stats People.

About Direct Line Group

Direct Line Group is headquartered in Bromley. Through its number of well-known brands the Group offers a wide range of general insurance products to consumers. These brands include Direct Line, Churchill and Privilege. The Group also provides insurance services for third parties through its partnerships division, Brand Partners. In the commercial sector, the Group's NIG and Direct Line for Business operations offer insurance products for businesses distributed through brokers or direct, respectively.

1 Includes Direct Line, Churchill, Privilege and partner brands: RBS, Nationwide (home only), NatWest, Prudential and Sainsbury’s © GfK Financial Research Survey six months ending November 2016, 13,665 adults interviewed for motor insurance and 12,270 for home insurance