Most Australians find driverless cars dangerous, study finds

A majority of Australians said they would not be willing to ride in a driverless car, a survey has found.

The study of more than 1000 people, by car insurer Budget Direct, found 57 per cent of responders thought driverless cars were a dangerous idea, and 47 per cent said they would ride in one.

Experts say driverless cars could be commercially available in fvie to 10 years.

Photo: Bloomberg

While most people in the study said they were hesitant about the new technology, 60 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds said driverless cars were not dangerous.

The youngest demographic surveyed was the only one in favour of driverless cars. Those over 65 were most opposed; 64 per cent said driverless cars were dangerous.

A majority of men and those between 18 to 44 said they would be willing to ride in one.

The survey found 56 per cent of men compared to 38 per cent of women would ride in an autonomous vehicle.

ACT residents were more likely to say driverless cars were dangerous compared to other jurisdictions, however the ACT had one of the smallest sample sizes.

More than 80 per cent of Canberrans said the technology was dangerous, compared to 59 per cent in NSW or 55 per cent in Victoria.

Trials of self-driving cars are happening in Canberra

Photo: Supplied

The results come as a $1.35 million trial is being carried out in Canberra looking at driver's reactions when they need to take control of the vehicle, with 40 residents taking part.

While older people surveyed were the most averse to driverless car, Swinburne University of Technology associate professor Hussein Dia said they would be the biggest beneficiaries to the technology.

"Older people lose licenses and many aren't able to physically drive once they reach a certain age," Professor Dia said.

"Driverless cars can provide more options for them as well as many social benefits.

"I'm not surprised by the results because there is a trust issue, and a lot of the older people aren't as willing to let a robot do the driving."

Professor Dia said people in Australia were more cautious about driverless cars compared to other countries, but was optimistic perceptions would change once the technology was more commercially accessible.

"The trials are making a difference because it's demystifying the technology, and we'll slowly see the benefits," he said.

"Driverless cars won't ever be 100 per cent safe but the research shows that, when they're ready, they will be much safer than human drivers."

Uber suspended its self-driving car tests earlier this year in the US, after one of the cars hit a female pedestrian while she was crossing the street in Arizona.

Australian National University robotics professor Robert Mahony said the survey results are typical of attitudes people have towards new technology.

"It's just human and nature and risk. Young people, and young men, are more tolerant of risk than older people," Professor Mahony said.

"I believe autonomous cars are here to stay and society will accept the cars because of the benefits that they will offer like improved productivity."

The professor said while driverless cars won't be seen on Canberra streets in coming months, it won't be long until they become commercially viable.

"I say that would be around five to 10 years away," Professor Mahony said.

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