Driverless Cars Will Encourage Binge Drinking, Claims Study

Driverless cars promise an age of safe, stress-free driving for motorists. But a new study has claimed that their rise will correlate with an increase in binge drinking…

Driverless Cars And Binge Drinking

Over a third of adult drivers have said they’d increase their alcohol consumption if they owned a driverless car. That’s the finding of a new study from researchers at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. They surveyed surveyed 1,334 people of legal driving age who drink alcohol. It wanted to determine how likely it would be for people to use driverless cars after drinking; and whether the vehicles would actually encourage them to drink more than they usually would. What they found was that, for many of the respondents, the technology would most likely lead to increased binge-drinking. For instance, 49% said they’d likely use a self-driving car after drinking. In addition, some 37% suggested they’d actually drink more than usual if one of the vehicles was available.

The survey’s results highlighted demographics associated with a greater likelihood of engaging in these behaviours.  These were younger drivers, people who drink regularly and people with a positive attitude towards driverless technology.

Unintended Consequences

Overall, the researchers concluded that driverless cars are likely to reduce drink-driving rates; whilst allowing for greater participation in binge drinking. This, they claim, will present fresh challenges for law-makers. Leon Booth, research associate at Curtin University’s School of Psychology, led the study. He said the rise of driverless cars “may be accompanied by an unintended negative consequence in the form of greater overall alcohol consumption due to increased availability of affordable and convenient transport”. Professor Simone Pettigrew, co-author of the research, said the cars represented a ‘complex challenge’. She said, “because the introduction of the vehicles will likely bring both positive and negative health effects, this represents a complex challenge for policymakers charged with reducing alcohol-related harms. A particular challenge will be the need to encourage the use of autonomous vehicles after drinking without encouraging drinking per se”.

As it stands, we’re a long way off from reaching a ‘Level 5’ driverless car. That is a vehicle that can get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ with absolutely no human input. Automakers around the world, including Ford, have essentially admitted that they underestimated the challenge in creating one. Not only is the technology exceptionally challenging in of itself, there are innumerable obstacles to overcome; some of which are beyond the reach of automotive companies. These include road markings and design, safety legislation and lingering distrust of the concept amongst consumers. As with most radical forms of technology, positives are often accompanied by negatives. Whilst driverless cars could eliminate drinking-related accidents, they could encourage people to drink more in general; that could produce problems elsewhere.

Driverless Cars: Do We Really Want To Stop Driving? –

Would You Use A Driverless Car? –

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