Victorian drivers want their next vehicle to be packed with automated features like lane-keeping assistance, speed sign recognition and blind spot warning, according to a survey.
Of the more than 15,000 Victorian motorists surveyed this month and last, 42 per cent of the males and 28 per cent of the females wanted their next car purchase to be able to self-drive along freeways and toll roads.
Conducted on behalf of Eastlink, the organisation that runs and maintains a 40km tolled section of the M3 freeway near Melbourne, the survey found huge desire for hybrid and electric vehicles with self-driving car features.
More than a third of respondents are considering hybrid power as an option for their next car. A quarter are considering going fully electric.
The vast majority of those surveyed also want their next car to be connected to a data network in order to receive traffic and road condition warnings, and for security and emergency assistance reasons.
EastLink is working in partnership with VicRoads, the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB), La Trobe University and RACV to identify opportunities to improve the compatibility between the latest self-driving car technologies and its freeway infrastructure.
Late last year the organisation announced a research project to assess the use of semi-autonomous cars and whether their technology was compatible with current infrastructure such as road signs and line markings.
A Volvo S90 was the first vehicle to be trialled in traffic on the stretch of road, with trials underway using vehicles manufactured by Audi, BMW, Honda, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, and Tesla.
Following the research, EastLink said it will work with car manufacturers and VicRoads to ensure that vehicle technology and road infrastructure allows for the safe introduction of hands free driving.
“The trials of self-driving car technologies on EastLink are helping to ensure this feature works effectively on Victorian freeways. We encourage all manufacturers to take part,” said Eastlink spokesperson Doug Spencer-Roy.
“Even though hands-free driving on our freeways and tollways is not yet available, the survey shows that one in three respondents already want this feature in their next car. We expect this demand to grow further as awareness of self-driving cars increases.”
A separate automated vehicle trial is now underway on the Monash-CityLink-Tullamarine corridor, to investigate how to prepare road infrastructure, regulations and the community for the integration of the technology into the Victorian transport system.
The first phase of the project – the result of a partnership between the state government, VicRoads, RACV and Transurban – will similarly examine how features like lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition respond to the road environment including tunnels, road works, congestion, electronic speed signs and line markings.
The vehicles involved in the trial, from BMW, Mercedes, Tesla and Volvo comply with existing Australian Design Rules and road safety regulations, and will have professional drivers holding the steering wheel at all times when conducting trials in live traffic.
Phase one of the trial will be complete later this year. The complete trial program will take two years and consists of three phases.
Eastlink said the survey was one of the world’s largest into attitudes towards self-driving cars.
RAC has also been researching public reaction to autonomous vehicles. An online survey of nearly a thousand Western Australians found a balance in the positive and negative sentiment towards the technology.
More freedom, being able to use the travel time to do other things and fewer crashes were the most commonly reported benefits. Not being able to manually override the vehicle, cyber security threats and the accountability following a crash were the most commonly cited concerns.
Three in five thought the WA government should be investing to ensure roads are ready for autonomous vehicles by 2025 and just over half believed vehicle manufacturers and industry should be leading the way. Only one in five said they were confident that the government will be ready in this timeframe.