In general, people lack trust in the technology. This is not surprising, and is characteristic of all new technology, but this will change as people become more accustomed to them. One of the ironies is that having nothing to do in an AV means we’ll take the opportunity to amuse ourselves. Indeed, being able to email and text while being driven is a big selling point.
However, reading or surfing the net in the car means that we are not watching the road, and in an emergency it could take more than 20 seconds to respond – clearly that isn’t fast enough. We can try to ensure the operator is watching, but with nothing to do except stare out the window, we quickly fall into passive fatigue, otherwise known as ‘‘drifting off’’ and in doing so, are so far away with the fairies it would still take us 10 to 12 seconds to respond.
The logical conclusion is that in an emergency, the car will lock you out and take control. Knowing that you’d be unable to respond in an emergency in your own vehicle makes most people uneasy. If we follow this further, what happens when the vehicle is faced with a morally ambiguous set of options in the emergency? I will leave that for another article.
AVs are fraught with problems, but we need them, if nothing else to address the high road toll. In Australia more than 1000 people still die each year on our roads.
Response: Professor Kristen Pammer, School of Psychology, University of Newcastle