Rocky road to automated future

Despite widespread optimism for driverless cars, the move unsurprisingly has opposition.

University of NSW road safety expert Ann Williamson believes there will be a rocky road to an automated future.

Speaking at the Australasian Road Safety Conference, Prof Williamson said cars that drove themselves but needed a human driver in emergencies could be deadly.

Prof Williamson said motorists were not trained to be ready to take back control of a car at a moment's notice in an emergency.

"Any time the car says 'I'll take over, just hold the steering wheel and wait till I call you', human beings don't do that very well," she said.

Prof Williamson said studies showed a driver's reaction time was slower than normal when taking back control from technologies like cruise control.

"When you're using it you will react significantly more slowly when you're required to respond to resume control of speed," she said.

Prof Williamson said slow reaction times could prove deadly for a driver resuming full control over a car that had previously been driving itself.

Roads Australia chief Ian Webb agreed the road to full automation would "not always be smooth" but he said the payoff would be worth it.

"The sooner it happens the more lives we will save," he said.

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