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The positive perception of autonomous cars has declined over the past year. That’s according to results of research on current attitudes to autonomous cars, conducted on behalf of the Road Safety Authority.

It was carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes. It builds on the results of 2018 research. The key findings are that awareness levels of self-driving cars remains high but the positive perception of them has declined in 2019.

Three quarters of people, similar to 2018, are aware of the ‘self-driving’ concept. This is higher among men at 81pc (67pc women).

Just more than a third think self-driving cars will be on our roads in 10 years or sooner; a quarter think they are 11 to 15 years away. This is in line with last year’s findings.

More than one-third (35pc) say their current car has some type of self-driving feature, such as adaptive cruise control (ACC), automatic parking, intelligent speed adaptation, collision avoidance system and lane keeping assist. It’s a slight rise on 2018. The most common feature, at 23pc, is ACC. That is really where the positive sentiment ends.

The perception that ‘self-driving cars are a good idea’ has reduced from 40pc to 37pc. The year-on-year decline is especially evident from those who ‘strongly agree’ with this view, down from 16pc to 9pc.

Those who have used ‘in-car’ self-driving features are typically younger, living in Dublin and most likely to support the notion that self-driving cars are a good idea.

Public trust in such cars’ ability to safely transport people has reduced from 35pc to 29pc. Levels of ‘trust’ vary particularly in and outside of Dublin and across urban (33pc) and rural areas (21pc). A third of men are more likely to trust them compared with a quarter of women.

Only 29pc currently agree they will lead to an improvement in safety compared with ‘cars currently on the road’. There was a more negative sentiment among women, older drivers, those living outside Dublin and in rural areas.

While two-in-five would have ‘any interest’ in owning one, the number saying they are extremely interested has declined by 5pc. Only 8pc now indicate the highest level of interest.

And interest in using self-driving public transport has also declined: 22pc of non-motorists reported they would be extremely or very interested in using such public transport, a 10pc drop.

The ‘main’ benefits associated with the cars are broad and undefined with 27pc saying they don’t know what they are; 17pc said it will make driving easier and 13pc volunteered it would result in ‘fewer road deaths and injuries’.

A further 13pc said it would provide increased mobility for elderly or disabled drivers.

Results indicate there has been a rise in the level of concern around the potential dangers associated with self-driving. When conducted last year, the main concern was that self-driving cars would be too expensive to buy and maintain. However, this year the majority (22pc) said their main concern was the potential for danger when interacting with vulnerable road users. Last year, only 6pc said this was a cause for concern.

The belief that there is a potential for danger when interacting with non-self-driving cars, has risen from 11pc to 19pc.

Another rise in concern, from 7pc to 18pc, is the fear of a self-driving car being ‘hacked’ and controlled by another.

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