Transport Minister warns of ‘moral panic’ around self-driving cars

Self-driving car system

Have the ‘horror stories’ around self-driving cars put you off the technology?

Last month, the UK became the first European country to allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel on public roads.

But the questionable safety of the vehicles has got many Brits up in arms.

Transport Minister Jesse Norman warns of impending “moral panic” around the developing technology, with questions on consent and democratic engagement being raised.

Ushering in the era of self-driving cars 

April 2023 saw Ford’s BlueCruise system given the green light on UK motorways. 

The system takes control of steering, acceleration, braking, and lane positioning without making vehicles fully self-driving.

Entirely automated cars are currently banned on UK roads, however, legislation to approve the technology could be introduced as early as 2025.

The question of ethics and self-driving cars 

Asked about the safety of self-driving vehicles by the Commons’ Transport Select Committee, Norman said: “The horrendous thing about this is that we can be rationally certain there are going to be some scare stories, particularly in the early stages, because of the diversity of human life.”

“It’s a really interesting question of consent and democratic engagement as to whether or not we as a policy, as a country, are able to weather that moral panic in the pursuit of a future which might lead to an enormously larger number of people not dying.” 

The safety record of self-driving vehicles will be “intensely publicly scrutinised”, the minister predicted.

He added: “As people understand the difference between assisted and self-driving [systems], we ought to be able to create a public environment in which there’s acceptance and understanding of that situation, but we can’t bank on it.” 

Where do you stand on the self-driving technology debate? If you’re interested in the topic of moral motorway policies, read about the rise and fall of smart motorways in the UK.