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Autonomous driving: the French are divided on the benefit of letting go of the steering wheel

If the French are convinced of the imminent arrival of autonomous cars on our roads, almost two thirds do not really trust that they work better than a human being behind the wheel. However, this is the preferred way to reduce the number of deaths.

While the prospects for driving a self-driving car seem to be diminishing of late, the steady progress of driver assistants leaves no doubt that one day motorists will be able to take their hands off the wheel.

In fact, the recent shortage of components and the transition to electric, which requires enormous investments by manufacturers, have somewhat overshadowed this issue, in a very fashionable time, with great promises of autonomous cars in circulation in the big cities since the beginning of this year. 2020 decade.

This is far from the case, with San Francisco among the rare exceptions, leading the way in this area. But given the recent setbacks experienced by Cruise’s robotaxis fleet, it is not certain that the experience is truly conclusive to be replicated in other cities.

Robots to reduce the number of deaths

However, the increase in driving aids and therefore, ultimately, the emergence of highly (or even 100%) autonomous models, remains one of the preferred solutions to reduce the number of deaths on the roads, underlines the latest Dekra road safety report.

This world-leading company in technical control (Dekra, Norisko and Autocontrol networks), present in 60 countries, has carried out this annual study since 2008, each time with a chosen main topic. This year: “technology and people.”

“From highly connected driving to autonomous driving, this remains the royal path to increasing the safety of road transport,” summarizes Karine Bonnet, CEO of Dekra Automotive.

From 2001 to 2020, the number of deaths on roads in the European Union fell by 64%, from more than 51,000 deaths annually to less than 23,000, partly thanks to this new mandatory modern equipment. But since then, this figure has stagnated, despite an ambitious goal: to drop to 11,400 deaths in 2030.

“90% of accidents are of human origin, due to speeding or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, so attendees must help avoid or reduce the consequences of an accident,” explains Karine Bonnet, adding that therefore “an interest in properly integrating their driving aids but without removing responsibility from the driver.”

The French are not really willing to give up the wheel

But what do motorists think? 89% of French people are already convinced that the autonomous vehicle will see the light of day, and within ten years 41% of them are convinced that the autonomous vehicle will see the light of day, according to a survey carried out by OpinionWay* for this study by Dekra.

An upcoming arrival especially anticipated by young people under 25 years of age and residents of an urban area like Ile-de-France.

“However, more than two-thirds of French people do not trust autonomous vehicles, with an over-representation of women (75%) and almost three-quarters of people over 50 years of age,” this survey highlights.

To explain this distrust, the study evokes “a real skepticism about the real effectiveness of autonomous vehicles in terms of safety.” In other words, it is not certain that the robot will do better than a human behind the wheel.

Another lesson is the quite strong fear of risk in terms of cybersecurity: 83% of those surveyed see the autonomous car as a potential target of computer attacks. A not very reassuring prospect to get into a robotaxi.

Recommendations for a successful transition

In this period of transition towards 100% autonomous cars, Dekra makes several recommendations to really improve road safety. The latest developments in interiors give prominence to touch screens, but sometimes with ergonomic problems in accessing certain functions, even the most basic ones.

In fact, a full-scale test was carried out on a panel of 80 drivers, with simple-to-activate controls in a Volkswagen Golf from 2012 and the 2022 version. A latest generation that has been particularly criticized for its interior design, with controls not necessarily obvious to understand. Result: almost 20 seconds more on average to activate a simple, but very essential, windshield defroster.

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An experience that aims above all to show the diversity of interior configurations offered by different brands. Which is not a problem in a vehicle that is used daily – once the defogging control is found, a priori it will be easier to activate it the following times – but it poses a greater problem in rental cars, in company fleets. or in shared cars.

In addition, the motorist must also “be better trained and informed about the operation and limits of driving assistance systems” and must also “promote the appropriation of the operation of the systems before driving”, in particular in the framework of these shared vehicles. .

Finally, Dekra insists that these assistants are not infallible. Another interesting experiment involved slightly adjusting a camera used, for example, by adaptive cruise control and emergency braking. Enough to interrupt these aids, without this being detected by the system, which must warn the driver in the event of a non-operative function.

“The correct functioning of the vehicle’s mechanical and electronic safety components must be guaranteed throughout the vehicle’s useful life,” advises the company, which also wants to make it mandatory to report accidents that affect driver assistance systems. Currently, this is not systematic and would allow potentially dangerous failures to be detected.

*OpinionWay survey carried out by DEKRA Automotive on October 18 and 19, 2023 on a sample of 1,008 people, representative of the French population aged 18 or over, constituted according to the quota method, taking into account the criteria of sex and age . , socio-professional category, urban category and region of residence.

Author: Julien Bonnet
Source: BFM TV

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