Connected and autonomous vehicles will transform the
lives of six out of every 10 people in the UK, while collectively boosting the
earning potential of one million people by more than £8 billion a year,
according to new research published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and
The report ‘Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Revolutionising Mobility in Society’, which is claimed to be the first
comprehensive UK-based study of the human impact of such vehicles, canvassed
the views of more than 3,600 respondents and found that the new technology
would offer freedom to some of society’s most disadvantaged, including those
with disabilities, older people and the young.
The research, conducted with Strategy&,
PwC’s strategy consulting arm, showed connected and autonomous vehicles had the
potential to reduce social exclusion significantly and the potential to give
one million more people access to further education, enabling them to increase
their earning potential by an estimated average of £8,509 per year.
Six out of 10 (57%) of people surveyed said the new
technology would improve their quality of life. For young people, the impact
could be even greater, with 71% of those aged 17 to 24 believing their lives
would be improved. Consumers were increasingly seeing the benefits of connected
and autonomous vehicles, with 56% feeling positive about them. Young people
were most excited, with almost half (49%) saying they would get into a
connected and autonomous vehicle today if one were available.
Automatic braking and parking and the car’s ability to
self-diagnose faults were cited as features most likely to reduce stress - the
biggest attraction of owning a connected and autonomous vehicle among all
Freedom to travel spontaneously and socialise with
friends and family were also seen as life-changing benefits, with 88% of people
who believed connected and autonomous vehicles would improve their social life
saying such a car would help them get out of the house more regularly.
People with mobility-related disabilities were among
those set to benefit the most, with almost half (49%) saying a connected and
autonomous vehicle would allow them to pursue hobbies outside of home or go out
to restaurants more often (46%). Meanwhile, two fifths (39%) said they would
benefit from having better access to healthcare.
Adults in that group were nearly three times as likely as
the rest of the population to lack a formal qualification, and less likely to
be in paid employment. With car ownership lower in that group than the average
population, connected and autonomous vehicles offered the potential to access
education and better paid jobs, suggested the report.
Older people were also set to benefit, with almost a
third having problems walking or using a bus, and many unable to drive due to
ill-health, poor eyesight or prohibitive insurance, making a strong case for
47% of survey respondents said a connected and autonomous
vehicle would make it easier for them to fulfil basic day-to-day tasks such as
grocery shopping, while 45% looked forward to pursuing more cultural activities
such as visiting museums or going to concerts or football matches.
Mobility was also a challenge for many young people with
more than a quarter (29%) saying the cost of car ownership, particularly high
insurance premiums, restricted their freedom.
Meanwhile, all groups cited the frequency of public
transport as a barrier. More than two in five (43%) also cited the high cost
and infrequency of public transport (33%) as a restriction.
The potential for saving money, therefore, was
highlighted as a key benefit of connected and autonomous vehicles.
Mike Hawes, SMMT 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.”
Mark Couttie, Strategy& partner, said: “There is a
real risk that this momentum and competitor advantage in the UK will stall if
we don’t do more to create positive public perception, overcoming our inherent
risk averse culture.
“Expanding people’s horizons about the advantages of
fully autonomous cars is a vital first step. This means better communicating
the art of the possible to increase social acceptance and dispel concerns that
our survey identified relating to cost and safety.
“Significant investment must also be made to improve the
connectivity infrastructure across the UK road network.”
Although fully connected and autonomous vehicles aren’t
expected to become mainstream until 2030, most new cars are now connected via
sat nav or Bluetooth, and more than half are available with safety systems such
as collision warning or autonomous emergency braking.
The UK is also fast establishing itself as a centre of excellence
for connected and autonomous vehicle technology, with billions of pounds of
investment already delivering public trials of autonomous driving and testing
of prototype vehicles by car makers on UK roads.