While greater adoption of Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) could potentially offer significant benefits to the transport system and society more broadly, unlocking these benefits requires a better understanding of Australian society’s views on the technology.
This study will:
- examine current Australian attitudes towards Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) and related technologies
- determine which factors are likely to impact CAV uptake by Australian consumers, and how these factors vary across different sub-population groups
- analyse the ability of different policy levers, including behavioural change methods and communication strategies, to increase community acceptance and support public confidence in these technologies; and
- develop potential recommendations that can be used by governments to facilitate adoption and diffusion of CAVs to maximise their potential economic, environmental and social benefits
The adoption and uptake of transport technologies such as CAVs, is expected to deliver significant safety, social and economic benefits. These benefits may include:
- safer roads with fewer accidents
- increased independence and accessibility for particular demographics, such as the elderly and persons with mobility restrictions
- reduced congestion
- more productive commutes and travel.
Community understanding and acceptance of automated vehicle technologies will be key in supporting public confidence to uptake and adopt these technologies, and to realise their benefits. As Cortright (2016) writes:
The optimists see a world where parking spaces are beaten into plowshares, the carnage from car crashes is eliminated, where fall sharply and where the young, the old and the infirm, those who can’t drive have easy access to door-to-door transit. The pessimists visualize an exurban dystopia with mass unemployment for those who now make their living driving vehicles, and where cheap and comfortable autonomous vehicles facilitate a new wave of population decentralization and sprawl.
In the face of such uncertainty between these widely divergent scenarios, it becomes particularly salient that we understand how consumers will engage with these new systems and services; what will be the consequent economic, social and environmental impacts of their decisions; and what could governments do to achieve societally optimal outcomes.
A focus on better understanding the Australian community’s perceptions of CAV technologies can help identify factors feeding into early adoption as well as adoption reluctance and inform what governments could do in response. Commonly identified perceived benefits include greater safety, more productive use of travel time, and improved accessibility. Conversely, commonly identified perceived barriers include risk of equipment failure, fear of relinquishing control, data privacy issues, and threats from online hackers. At a societal level CAVs may unintentionally lead to perverse outcomes, such as increased vehicle kilometres travelled and greater traffic congestion.
Further, with these vehicles priced at a premium tier, there is a chance that CAVs may entrench existing social inequalities, impacting minority, elderly and regional populations disproportionally. These earlier findings stress the need to understand people’s attitudes and propensity to adopt this technology in the Australian context, and to discuss policy responses capable of supporting a societally beneficial transition.
Characteristics of different consumer groups may influence the adoption of CAVs. For example, previous studies have shown that male respondents are more positive to the potential benefits of driverless vehicles than females. Differences in people’s propensity to innovate, risk perceptions and personal goals have all been shown to affect whether consumers are more likely to adopt technological innovations more generally.
Further, contextual factors such as social influence and institutional distrust (e.g., towards the government, vehicle manufacturers, technology companies) may prove critical to achieving potential benefits offered by CAVs. Finally, demographic characteristics such as income and education are also likely to have an influence.
Governments will play a crucial role in managing the introduction and diffusion of CAVs in society. They will develop the regulatory environment in which CAVs are commercialised, provide the infrastructure on which they operate, and potentially offer information and support to the general population on use of the technology. In general, while greater adoption of CAVs could potentially offer significant benefits to the transport system and society more broadly, unlocking these benefits requires a better understanding of the Australian society’s views on the technology.
This study will address the following overarching question: What are current Australian attitudes towards CAVs and related technologies, and what levers are available for governments to increase community acceptance and support public confidence in these technologies?
In particular, UniSA will examine the following sub-questions in greater detail:
- What does the existing evidence say about the adoption and diffusion of CAVs in different geographical, societal and policy contexts?
- How do Australian consumers perceive CAVs, which factors are likely to impact CAV uptake by Australian consumers, and how do these factors vary across different sub-population groups?
- What policy instruments, including behavioural change methods and communication strategies, could governments use to facilitate adoption and diffusion of CAVs to maximise their potential benefits?
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