Home Hi-Tech Self-driving cars survey probes Canadians about semi- and fully-automated vehicles

Self-driving cars survey probes Canadians about semi- and fully-automated vehicles


Canadians aren’t the most informed lot when it comes to semi- and fully-automated vehicles or driverless cars as a new survey has found that there is still a lot of unawareness about what these technologies are capable of doing and what they mean for a driver.

The national public opinion survey was carried out by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) in partnership with the Toyota Canada Foundation (TCF) back in May 2016 and results have recently been released. The results indicate some startling results including what Canadians would actually do in a driverless or autonomous vehicle. The poll saw more than 2,600 Canadian drivers register their responses and based on these, the organisers were able to determine and investigate knowledge, attitudes, and practices in relation to much anticipated, semi- and fully-automated vehicles.

One of the main expectation from driverless cars is that they will reduce road crashes and produce a range of other benefits; however, technological advancements need to be kept in mind while gauging the capabilities of a driverless car and experts say that for the gains of autonomous vehicle technology can only be reaped with involvement of the drivers.

The poll reflects that Canadians aren’t still fully aware of the limitations of automated vehicle technology and almost 1 in six Canadian believes that they aren’t required to be attentive when behind the wheel of a semi-automated vehicle. The poll also showed that drivers are willing to take risks when inside a semi-automated vehicle – 25 per cent said they would drive either tired or fatigued, 17 per cent said that they will involve themselves in a non-driving activity such as texting, reading or working more than they do now or in other words distracted driving. There were those who even said that they wouldn’t mind sleeping or taking a nap behind the wheel or drive and drive.

One key thing to remember is that while technological advancements in automated driving are meant to provide drivers with enhanced control of their vehicles and they haven’t reached a stage where they can be completely relied upon. This is what Canadians aren’t aware about and survey organisers urge automakers to educate drivers about the capabilities as well as limitations of automated driving technology.

Multiple issues still persist and they haven’t been solved yet and members of the public can use these issues to analyse for themselves the maturity of driverless or automated vehicle technology and whether their perception about the advancements are true or not.

Results of the poll indicated that Canadians will want to use semi-automated vehicles to drive in bad weather, heavy traffic and poor road conditions, but these are precisely the conditions under which automated technology is currently most likely to fail.

The results of this study also shed light on other key issues that will have important implications for driver acceptance of automated vehicles, and their willingness to use them. In particular, public opinion was varied regarding the cost of insurance and who should be assigned liability or fault in collisions involving automated vehicles. In addition, expectations regarding ethical decision-making algorithms that will shape the way automated vehicles respond in an unavoidable crash were divided in terms of whether vehicle occupants should be protected, or vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians.

Overall, findings from this poll highlighted that education and awareness must keep pace with automated vehicle technology to avoid increased risk-taking by drivers. The prevalence of misperceptions about the capabilities of this technology, and its limitations is concerning. Governments, manufacturers and road safety stakeholders are important partners that must work cooperatively to fill this critical gap.