Research into the attitudes of the travelling public towards autonomous vehicles and ride sharing suggest that the majority are uneasy about the prospect of ride sharing with strangers in small saloon-car style vehicles.
The MERGE Greenwich surveyLess than half (46%) were willing to use a ride-sharing service for various types of journeys once or twice a week. This willingness dropped (to 26%) when respondents considered using a ride-sharing service three or more times a week.
Researchers say concerns relating to privacy and security deterred a number (15%) of participants from showing a willingness to adopt ride-sharing. Sharing a journey in a small space (such as a saloon car) implied different social rules compared to, say, sharing a busy tube carriage or bus. They suggest this indicates that vehicle design would be key to overcoming barriers to ride-sharing, by ensuring the environment provided personal space, safety and comfort.
Design of the digital customer interface (booking App), presentation of information (e.g. route, location sharing, emergency call button) and the ability to speak directly to a person in authority were identified as other ways to overcome consumer concerns, by providing transparency, emergency contacts and reassurance of safety.
Of the respondents, the most likely users of an AV ride-sharing service will be men with an average age of 45, whereas women over 50 are the least likely to use such a service. Men indicated they are more excited about the technology of AVs, whereas women are much more concerned with personal safety.
AV technology was the aspect of the service which potential customers were most excited about, with 85% of survey respondents indicating willingness to use an AV in the future. While most reactions to AVs were polarised, either positive or negative, the majority of people thought they would eventually use AVs, based on the assumption regulators would require AV technology to be proven through rigorous testing before being deployed for commercial use and available for members of the public to use.
The MERGE Greenwich project aims to develop a blueprint for an AV ride-sharing service which integrates with public transport systems. This project is being delivered by a consortium led by global mobility services operator, Addison Lee, and involves expert input from Ford, TRL, Transport Systems Catapult, Immense Simulations and DG Cities. Jointly funded by the UK Government and industry, the £1 million project will take 12 months, concluding in summer 2018.