Self-driving buses knocked as poll shows public nervous about safety

Royal Air Force trial the use of self-driving cars

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Edinburgh will launch the world’s first full-sized autonomous bus service in the spring, with five self-driving buses operating a 14-mile route between Ferrytoll park-and-ride in Fife and the Edinburgh Park train and tram interchange. However, the overwhelming majority of readers do not trust self-driving buses, a new poll has found.

The scheme in the Scottish capital was one of seven given a share of £81million by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles to British companies to develop experimental self-driving passengers and freight services.

The buses will be integrated with traffic at speeds of up to 50mph and will have two members of staff abroad to monitor the autonomous system and assist passengers.

The vehicles in service could make up to 10,000 journeys each week with the scheme aiming to “revolutionise” public transport and passenger travel to “better connect rural communities” and “reduce road collisions caused by human error”.

Ivan McKee, the Scottish government’s business minister, described the project as a “hugely significant step”.

He said: “It has been really encouraging to watch the project develop through the various steps, from early testing and demonstrations through to carrying of passengers along the route for the first time.”

In a poll that ran from 9am on Sunday, February 5, to 2pm on Thursday, February 9, asked readers: “Do you trust self-driving buses?”

Overall, 1,210 readers responded, with the overwhelming majority, 90 percent (1,088 people), answering “no” they do not trust self-driving buses.

In contrast, eight percent (102 people) said “yes” they do, and a further two percent (20 people) said they did not know either way.

Dozens of comments were left below the accompanying article as readers shared their thoughts on the new mode of transportation.

Many readers argued against self-driving buses, with username raytrace writing: “Only a matter of time before they kill a large number of people.”

Username thetaxilady said: “Never in a month of Sundays!”

Username Stillhere wrote: “Absolutely not, I would go back to driving. I am not going to be a guinea pig while big business has fun experimenting with new gadgets.”

And username Marhon said the vehicles had “no chance of working” in Edinburgh.


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Another, username incendiary wrote: “There is always something not programmed for.”

Similarly, username yanowski said: “No never, my PC and phone take a wobbler now and then but they don’t carry people.”

Username Me too agreed, commenting: “It all sounds tremendously yippee until something goes wrong.”

Likewise, username MeerJabsNodig said: “If all traffic on the roads were self-driven, then yes, they would be the safest things in the world! The problem is humans. Computers are unable to predict actions of human drivers.”

However, a minority of readers supported the introduction of self-driving buses, with username Mockthejambons declaring: “It’s the future. The record of human drivers is not great. The reality is that computers are far better at operating vehicles than we are.”

The buses – part of the CAVForth project – have been in trials since last spring and successfully transported 22 passengers in January. One passenger on board, Fleur described her experience as “quite exciting”. She said: “The thought of getting on for the first time, I wasn’t worried at all about it – you wouldn’t know the difference between this and a normal bus from the driving.”

Transport secretary Mark Harper said: “Self-driving vehicles including buses will positively transform people’s everyday lives – making it easier to get around, access vital services and improve regional connectivity. We’re supporting and investing in the safe rollout of this incredible technology to help maximise its full potential, while also creating skilled jobs and boosting growth in this important sector.”

Other projects given funding by the Government include on-demand self-driving taxis in Cambridge, zero-emissions self-driving HGV’s developed in tandem with Asda and a remote-control driving hub in Solihull and Coventry.

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