A Google self-driving vehicle pictured in 2014. (Photo Source: Flickr/ Creative Commons) Canadians have a “relatively high level of concern” about automated vehicles and how they will function on the country’s roads, a new federally-commissioned survey suggests.
In an online poll of 3,113 Canadians conducted from Jan. 31 to Feb. 16, with more than 2,700 them holding a valid drivers’ licence, 73 per cent of respondents said they agreed to some extent that as vehicles become more automated, system security and data privacy will become more of a concern.
Only one-third of those surveyed said they would be comfortable riding in a driverless vehicle that is fully automated.
Meanwhile, 42 per cent of those surveyed said automated vehicles would help keep roads safer for everyone. Forty-three per cent of respondents said self-driving automobiles perform better than human drivers in routine driving conditions.
Two-thirds of those surveyed said the idea of fully self-driving delivery vehicles concerns them.
Transport Canada had commissioned Environics Research to conduct the poll in order to better understand what Canadian drivers know about automated vehicles and associated technology and their perceptions on the emerging trend.
Fully automated vehicles use a combination of sensors, controllers and onboard computers that allow them to control navigating functions without the need of a human driver.
While seemingly futuristic, almost all new personal vehicles today contain some form of automation features, such as blind spot monitoring.
Transport Canada predicts such vehicles will be “gradually brought into Canada’s road transportation network” but that it “could be many years before fully automated vehicles are widely used by Canadians in their daily lives.”
The department believes such technologies still need plenty of research and testing before they are proven reliable and safe to use on Canada’s roads.
About one-third of respondents to the survey said they are at least somewhat familiar with automated vehicles, with urban residents, young adults and people earning more than $80,000 in annual salary among those more likely to be aware.
Despite concerns expressed in the survey, 51 per cent of respondents said the advantages of automated vehicles include reducing driver error and the number of bad or impaired drivers off the roads.
However, few surveyed felt automated cars would reduce traffic congestion, improve commute times and boost the economy.
At least six in 10 respondents felt the main disadvantages of automated vehicles are the risk of equipment and system failures, failure to react in unexpected situations and that drivers will become more lazy or pay less attention. Half of respondents said another main disadvantage was operating in Canadian winters.
In 2018, Transport Canada announced a $2.9 million research and development program intended to fund projects that help prepare the country for wide use of connected and automated vehicles.