Younger people are likely to drive the push to ‘connected and autonomous’ vehicles (CAVs), according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) research.

The SMMT along with PwC strategy consulting arm, Strategy&, asked 3,641 UK consumers of varying ages their views on the topic in March, and found 49% of 17-24 year olds wanted an autonomous car, and 71% of young people said it would improve their quality of life.

This compared to 57% of the total respondents, including all age demographics.

Automatic braking and parking and the car’s ability to self-diagnose faults were cited as key attractions of CAVs, contributing to a reduction in driving stress – the biggest attraction of owning a CAV among this group.

Freedom to travel spontaneously and socialise with friends and family were also seen as life-changing benefits, with 88% of people who believe CAVs will improve their social life saying a CAV would help them get out of the house more regularly. 

Strategy& calculated CAVs have the potential to give one million more people access to higher education, enabling them to increase their earning potential by an estimated average of £8,509 per year.

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Another group set to benefit from the expansion of CAVs are those with mobility-related disabilities. Almost half of respondents from this group (49%) said the new vehicle would allow them to pursue hobbies outside of home or go out to restaurants more often. Meanwhile, two fifths (39%) said they would benefit from having better access to healthcare

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “The benefits of connected and autonomous vehicles are life-changing, offering more people greater independence, freedom to socialise, work and earn more, and access services more easily. While fully autonomous cars will be a step change for society, this report shows young people are already tuning into their benefits – and it’s great to see tomorrow’s new car buyers getting excited about the vehicles they’ll be driving in the future. The challenge now is to meet this excitement by creating policy to allow this technology to thrive, given how it will deliver these wider societal advantages.”

Mark Couttie, Strategy& partner, said, “There is a real risk that this momentum and competitor advantage in the UK will stall if we don’t do more to create positive public perception, overcoming our inherent risk averse culture. Expanding people’s horizons about the advantages of fully autonomous cars is a vital first step. This means better communicating the art of the possible to increase social acceptance and dispel concerns that our survey identified relating to cost and safety. Significant investment must also be made to improve the connectivity infrastructure across the UK road network and this report provides a number of clear recommendations to ensure that we capitalise on this window of opportunity.”