Can we trust the driverless car?

Herbie - Illustration of a driverless car

Driverless cars hit the UK roads for the first time last week with the headlines hot in pursuit. All very exciting in principal. But in practice are we ready to put our lives in the hands of this back to the future style technology?

When I saw the news report on the driverless cars my first thought was, really? Herbie is actually coming to take me shopping, to visit my family, go to the zoo, brilliant! My second thought, in very close succession, no way, as a self-professed control freak I am not putting my life in the hands of a robot car. What happens when the technology fails? You can’t reboot it; you’ll be dead!

I think that the self-driving car will struggle to gain consumer trust regardless of all of the positives it has to offer and I decided to test my theory with a little market research. Enter, the Product Lab Research Panel…

Well, how wrong can you be? 43% of our research panel say that they would indeed ‘drive’ a driverless car with 29% undecided. Great news for the Mercedes Benz F015, Google, Apple and the multitude of other tech and automobile giants showing an interest. I clearly need to address my trust issues.

But let’s not pop the champagne corks just yet…

When I asked which feature would be most important to them in a driverless car, an unequivocal 74% of our Product Lab consumers stated that they wanted a manual override option. And there’s the 'tell' my friends. ‘The one thing that amused me in the poll and I voted the same way, is for Manual Override to be top priority over things like airbags. We obviously all like the idea but are not 100% confident of having no control ourselves.’

Our consumers are concerned about hacking, computer error, and the ability for a robot to make an intuitive decision full stop. ‘I just cannot see myself in one of these. I would be too stressed out thinking something will go wrong. Possibly if I was sedated before setting off!’ You took the words right out of my mouth.

So, whilst the issue of consumer trust appears to be alleviated to an extent as long as the driverless car retains a manual control option, it seems that my untrusting perception of technology in general is not the only one that needs changing before we put our lives in Herbie’s hands 100%.

More R&D is clearly necessary in terms of functionality but I would also suggest further study encompassing customer feedback, is key to the adoption of these vehicles.

Image by Cedric Weber /

Find out how you can ensure adoption with our Testing services.


The Telegraph: This is the Lutz Pod. the UK’s first driverless car

Mail Online: Driverless cars get green light

Reuters: Britain gives go-ahead to test driverless cars on roads

MK Web: Could Apple be following Milton Keynes’ lead by making a driverless car?

E&T: Apple looks into driverless cars

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

Auto Express: Product ready version of Google's driverless car revealed

1 comment

  • Julia Roberts

    19 March 2015, 5.50pm

    Excellent article. I look forward to interacting with you and reading more of your work. Seriously, thank you so much for this piece of knowledge. Have a wonderful day!

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About the Author

  • Stephanie Kent

    Stephanie Kent - Lab Reporter

    Our dedicated Lab Panel blogger, Steph is the voice of the consumer. From mortgages to special fried rice, if you want to know what the UK thinks, she's your girl. With a formidable background in both business and retail journalism Steph invites the Lab Panel to speak out about the latest consumer trends to hit the headlines. She reports the facts back to you, bringing the panellists to life with her own unique, quirky tone. We can't wait to read her blogs… and we know how they end.


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