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Fewer road accidents seen as biggest benefit of driverless cars

21 June 2016

More than a quarter of UK adults polled in the UK Robotics Week survey believe that the biggest benefit of driverless cars will be fewer road accidents.

The research, commissioned by the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, is being released ahead of the first ever UK Robotics Week (25 June – 1 July 2016).  

26.1 percent of respondents representing a cross-section of UK adults think that the biggest benefit of the introduction of autonomous vehicles – such as the Google Self-Driving Car – will be a reduction in the number of road accidents. A fifth (20.7 percent) believe that their road rage would decrease. “While widespread advent of fully autonomous, “never-need-a-driving-wheel" self-driving cars is sometime away the possibilities for safety, economy and efficiency of these devices is breathtaking,” said Professor Paul Newman, who is leading Oxford University’s internationally acclaimed Mobile Robotics Group that develops self-driving cars and related technologies. He added: “Early and thoughtful engagement with users - their fears, aspirations and expectations is all part of the development of the technology.”

Other key findings of the research into public attitudes to robotics advances include:

• 71.8 percent feel that autonomous driving would have a positive impact on everyday commuting
• 21.2 percent of respondents think that the automotive sector would deliver the greatest benefits from robotics in the next ten years
• While men believe automotive will benefit most, women voted medicine the top sector to gain from robotics technology during the coming decade (20.3 percent).

Some more quirky findings include:

• Robots at Wimbledon? A quarter of people polled (24.30 percent) believe that ball-collecting robots at tennis games will exist within the next ten years
• A fifth of Brits (20.3 percent) would like their vacuuming chores to be undertaken by a robot, while 1 in 6 (17 percent) would like their ironing done robotically

The survey numbers reveal some surprising and interesting perceptions around robotics technology as the UK prepares to shine a major spotlight on the nation’s innovation and leadership in robotics and autonomous systems. Over half of Brits (56.4 percent) believe that robots will be driving cars in the next 25 years, while 54.3 percent believe they will be able to clean. 

Of those surveyed, 43.3 percent believe that robots will be able to perform surgical operations in the next 25 years, and over a third (35.5 percent) think that robots will be able to talk and have a conversation.

Commenting on the release of the survey results, Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, Chair of the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, said: “Advances in technology will inevitably change the nature of workforce, replacing certain types of jobs whilst creating new opportunities in the process. A national level engagement is essential to ensure the general public has a clear understanding of current and future development of robotics and artificial intelligence and its positive impact on UK jobs and economic growth.” He added: “At the same time, we need to be open and prepared for the changes in workforce structure and shift in the skills base by developing a national program to address the digital skills gap.”

UK Robotics Week, to be held annually during the last week of June, is a unique opportunity to learn about the current state-of-the-art robotic technology, discuss the role of robots and artificial intelligence in our lives, and to inspire the next generation of designers and engineers. 

UK Robotics Week will culminate in the celebration International Showcase event in London on Friday 1st July. This grand finale event will bring together the latest research from the UK and from around the world, offering talks and demonstrations from leading robotics nations including the UK, Japan, United States, South Korea, China, Italy, Switzerland and United Arab Emirates. The event will also include the Awards Ceremony for the four robotics Challenges – School Robot Challenge, Autonomous Driving Challenge, Surgical Robot Challenge and Field Robotics Challenge – plus the launch of two brand new Robotics and Autonomous Systems white papers.

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