i, robot – will smith, robot car

Some people are willing to put their lives in the hands of robot cars, says survey

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i, robot – will smith, robot car

Public attitudes to robotic advances in medicine, transport and the home polled ahead of first ever UK Robotics Week – 25th June to 1st July 2016 

More than a quarter of UK adults polled in the UK Robotics Week survey believe that the biggest benefit of driverless cars will be fewer road accidents, a survey has found.

The research, commissioned by the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, is being released ahead of the first ever UK Robotics Week (25 June to 1 July 2016).  

More than 26 per cent of respondents representing a cross-section of UK adults think that the biggest benefit of the introduction of autonomous vehicles – such as the Google self-driving car – will be a reduction in the number of road accidents. A fifth (20.7 per cent) believe that their road rage would decrease. 

“While widespread advent of fully autonomous, ‘never-need-a-driving-wheel’ self-driving cars is sometime away the possibilities for safety, economy and efficiency of these devices is breathtaking,” says Professor Paul Newman, who is leading Oxford University’s internationally acclaimed Mobile Robotics Group that develops self-driving cars and related technologies.  

Prof Newmans adds: “Early and thoughtful engagement with users – their fears, aspirations and expectations is all part of the development of the technology.” 

Other key findings of the research into public attitudes to robotics advances include:

  • 71.8 per cent feel that autonomous driving would have a positive impact on everyday commuting
  • 21.2 per cent of respondents think that the automotive sector would deliver the greatest benefits from robotics in the next 10 years
  • While men believe automotive will benefit most, women voted medicine the top sector to gain from robotics technology during the coming decade (20.3 per cent).

Some more quirky findings include:

  • Robots at Wimbledon? A quarter of people polled (24.30 per cent) believe that ball-collecting robots at tennis games will exist within the next 10 years
  • A fifth of Brits (20.3 per cent) would like their vacuuming chores to be undertaken by a robot, while 1 in 6 (17 per cent) would like their ironing done robotically

The survey numbers reveal some surprising and interesting perceptions around robotics technology as the UK prepares to shine a major spotlight on the nation’s innovation and leadership in robotics and autonomous systems. 

Over half of Brits (56.4 per cent) believe that robots will be driving cars in the next 25 years, while 54.3 per cent believe they will be able to clean. 

Of those surveyed, 43.3 per cent believe that robots will be able to perform surgical operations in the next 25 years, and over a third (35.5 per cent) think that robots will be able to talk and have a conversation.

Commenting on the release of the survey results, Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, chair of the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, says: “Advances in technology will inevitably change the nature of workforce, replacing certain types of jobs whilst creating new opportunities in the process.

“A national level engagement is essential to ensure the general public has a clear understanding of current and future development of robotics and artificial intelligence and its positive impact on UK jobs and economic growth.” 

Prof Yang adds:  “At the same time, we need to be open and prepared for the changes in workforce structure and shift in the skills base by developing a national programme to address the digital skills gap.” 

According to the organisers, UK Robotics Week, to be held annually during the last week of June, is a unique opportunity to learn about the current state-of-the-art robotic technology, discuss the role of robots and artificial intelligence in our lives, and to inspire the next generation of designers and engineers. 


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