Driverless cars provide optimism for those in the UK with mobility challenges

23 May 2017

There is no doubt that driverless cars have the power to transform society. Strategy&’s recent driverless car impact study commissioned by the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders – Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Revolutionising Mobility in Society – confirms this. Over 50% of people who participated in the study stated that their mobility was currently restricted, suggesting that there is vast room for improvement in private and public transport provision.

Unlike much existing thought leadership on connected and autonomous vehicles relating to technology and safety matters, including Strategy&’s Connected Car study, the focus of this report was on the social impact of driverless vehicles. In particular, the impact on three demographic groups whose mobility is most constrained:

  1. young people
  2. older people
  3. people with a disability

These three groups represent around 35% of the UK population and our study suggests that they have a huge amount to gain from driverless vehicles. As the automotive technology revolution unfolds, improved personal mobility for these people will increase access to higher education, the jobs market, and healthcare, as well as offer the possibility for improved social lives.

In this short series of blogs, I’ll look at the benefits this technology could offer and how we could accelerate both progress and production in order to realise these benefits before 2030.

What are the benefits of driverless cars?

Reduced journey stress

48% of all respondents cited reduced stress of driving as the top benefit of driverless cars. Another key advantage is the increased flexibility of autonomous cars – no longer will older people and those with disabilities have to rely on public transport, carers or family members for mobility. Survey respondents unanimously selected assisted braking when approaching a collision hazard as the most attractive feature of autonomous cars. Other attractive features include parking assistance, self-diagnostics, alert and rescue, and driver fatigue and wellbeing monitoring.

Wider socio-economic gain

Beyond improvements to the journeys themselves, driverless cars could have huge social and economic benefits for society. With increased freedom to travel whenever and wherever an individual wants without the need to drive, people’s quality of life could be significantly improved, for example through better access to education and jobs. Based on the extrapolation of our survey findings to the overall UK population, driverless vehicles could help more than one million people in the UK pursue a university degree. Furthermore, almost half of young people who believed that driverless vehicles would provide greater employment choices also believed that increased mobility could enable them to get a more enjoyable job.

With loneliness an increasing problem amongst an ever-expanding older population, autonomous vehicles could also offer a partial solution to address social isolation, and simultaneously combat health issues facing the elderly. 95% of those who believed that a driverless vehicle would improve their quality of life by enabling them to leave the house more often would expect to go out at least once more per week. This would not only boost the UK’s economy, but also increase people’s enjoyment of their lives.

We believe the potential benefits of driverless vehicles are undisputed and, in my follow-up article, I’ll investigate the next steps that should be taken if the UK is to secure pole position in the race for fully driverless cars.

Mark Couttie  |  Automotive Partner, Strategy&, part of the PwC network
Email  |  +44) 2072125032 

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