Human vs. machine: The debate over driving skills in the era of autonomous vehicles

Robot driving a car - autonomous transport and self-driving cars concept .3D illustration

Who drives a car better, you or artificial intelligence (AI)?

According to a survey of 2,078 drivers in Britain, three out of five believe their driving skills are better than those of autonomous car technology.

The news coincides with Boris Johnson’s recent, highly positive Daily Mail assessment of his time driving a Tesla equipped with self-driving technology.

Additionally, the UK government is prepared to invest up to £150 million in driverless technology by 2030 when the Automated Vehicles Bill is due to gain Royal Assent on Monday.

However, the current study’s findings indicate that people are still not entirely sold on driverless vehicles.

According to a study by Volkswagen Financial Services (VWFS), 60% of drivers believe they are “better” drivers than an autonomous vehicle. raising concerns about a driver’s readiness to give up control of the car and choose autonomous driving.

Additionally, there is reluctance regarding the dependability of self-driving technology.

Two out of five drivers (39%) who were asked what they believed would be the major drawback of fully automated cars said that they were concerned about “technological failings or mishaps.”

On the other hand, 10% of respondents said that they might “become bored” in an autonomous vehicle if they don’t actively participate.

But when asked about the benefits of fully autonomous driving, more than a quarter (27%) said they believed the technology would take irresponsible drivers off the road, while less than a third (30%) said they saw no real benefits.

Although the public is reluctant to accept autonomous cars, the trade association for the automotive industry thinks the technology would significantly improve both safety and the economy.

According to research conducted by The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, by 2040, self-driving technology is expected to save 3,900 lives, avert 60,000 catastrophic traffic accidents, and generate an estimated £66 billion in economic benefits.

But there are also inherent concerns, according to the first significant scientific assessment on advanced AI safety that was released this week.

The report, which is the initial version of the International Scientific Report on Advanced AI Safety, cautions that opinions among experts on a variety of artificial intelligence-related problems are not all in agreement.

Their primary worries centre on the current state of AI capabilities, how those might change in the future, and the possibility that severe risks—like losing control over the technology—will materialise.

The study distinguished between three major types of AI risk: systemic risks, risks resulting from malfunctions, and risks resulting from malicious use.

It occurs on the same day as the Automated Vehicles Bill, which will get Royal Assent on Monday, May 20, completes its parliamentary journey in the House of Lords this month.

The law, which was unveiled in November 2023’s King’s Speech, will establish the regulations necessary for the safe implementation of autonomous cars throughout the United Kingdom.

Eventually, it will specify who bears responsibility for technological abuse and collisions, determine the safety bar for authorised self-driving cars, and create an in-use regulatory framework to keep an eye on these cars’ continuous safety.

Tom Leggett, vehicle technology manager at the UK’s only not-for-profit automotive risk intelligence organisation, Thatcham Research, said: ‘I am pleased the AV Bill will soon receive Royal Assent. Having followed its progress throughout the Houses of Parliament closely for the last six months, the UK will soon be in a better position to safely adopt automated vehicles on our roads.

“Reassuringly, the bill recognises several points raised in our joint Insurer Requirements for Automated Vehicles report.

“This highlights an understanding from lawmakers that working alongside insurers and other key automotive stakeholders is essential to ensuring the safe adoption of this technology.

“The AV [automated vehicle] Bill will also present an opportunity for greater clarity within the automotive sector, helping consumers to make more informed decisions when considering vehicles with automated functionality.”

Jonathan Fong, manager for general insurance policy at the Association of British Insurers, welcomed the passing of the bill, saying it puts the UK “on the road to being a world leader in AV technology.”

He added: “UK motor insurers have long been supporting the development of automated vehicles, including by actively insuring trials to allow the technology to evolve, and by supporting the creation and progress of this Bill at every step of the journey.

“While this Bill represents a significant step forward, further consideration is needed to address concerns around safety and cyber security. It’s critical that insurers have access to relevant data in order to support the adoption of this technology.”

The public, according to Mike Todd, CEO of VWFS UK, “is yet to be fully convinced” by the technology, even if lawmakers are moving forward with developing a regulatory framework for the introduction of autonomous vehicles.

“Confidence in their own driving abilities, compared to self-driving technology, means some motorists will be reluctant to hand over control,” Todd said.

“While for others, the active participation in the driving experience is one they do not want to lose.”

He added: “Drivers also express worries about technology-related issues or failings when in the vehicle.

“However, when weighed against the predicted safety and economic benefits that autonomous driving will deliver, the argument for continuing to invest in the development of self-driving technology is compelling.”

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