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More than half of Australians say they'll never feel safe in a driverless car

Forty per cent of respondents described the rush to autonomy as “not a priority at all”

The autonomous car dream is actually more like a nightmare for the majority of Australians, with more than half of us saying we’d never feel safe in a driverless car, and 40 per cent describing the rush to autonomy as “not a priority at all”.

They're the findings from a recent 1500-strong survey conducted by mining giant Rio Tinto, which formed the basis of its “Humans and travel: Can we go further, faster with less impact?” report.

In Australia, Rio Tinto considers itself at the forefront of industrial autonomy, having introduced driverless trucks a decade ago, and launching the world’s first driverless train in 2018. Next on its agenda is the introduction autonomous drills, with 20 to launch across five mining sites.

But the corporate giant questions whether Australia is now falling behind as the world rushes to embrace new technology that remains in its infancy locally.

“Innovation in travel will only come if we, as humans, change our behaviour. For the sake of convenience and cost, we will need to consider shared, on-demand and autonomous transport services,” says Rio Tinto’s Australian managing director, Joanne Farrell.

“We’re entering a new era of mobility and, at Rio Tinto, we see it as our responsibility to remain at the forefront to allow this progress to occur in the safest and most sustainable way.”

The findings are yet another public relations blow for autonomous cars. Another recent study found that, while more people are aware of driverless cars than ever before, fewer of us trust in the technology to keep us safe. In fact, just 16 per cent of people said they'd feel comfortable handing over full control of their car to autonomous systems.

The 2018 Automotive Evolution of Mobility Study: Autonomous Vehicles by Cox Automotive - owner of CarsGuide - found that the number of people who would feel safer in a self-driving car than in one they could control themselves has dropped by around 18 per cent over the past two years.

That study, which surveyed 1250 consumers in the USA, also found that 84 per cent of buyers still want the option to take over the driving in an autonomous vehicle, while just 16 per cent would feel comfortable in an autonomous vehicle that didn't allow them to take control.

Which side of the autonomous fence are you on? Tell us in the comments below.