Government-backed technology stimulator Innovate UK has tasked a PR consultancy with carrying out a first-stage study of public perceptions of autonomous vehicles.
The study is part of a project led by the People in Autonomous Vehicles in Urban Environments (PAVE) consortium, based at the Culham Research Centre in Oxfordshire, a potential test site.
It includes workshops and exhibitions for employees of technology companies and local stakeholders, and members of the public, in Oxfordshire and London.
PAVE members include Oxford University spin off Oxbotica, a partner in two of the UK's three driverless car development projects, and engineering and asset management consultancy Amey.
Amey IT director of smart data and technology Dr Rick Robinson said: 'The UK has the highest level of internet search requests on driverless cars of anywhere in the world. However, while people think the technology potentially offers enormous societal and economic benefits, there are concerns, particularly about safety. ‘
The study could be overshadowed by the recent death in a crash in Florida of a 'driver' reportedly watching a film in a Tesla car running on autopilot. The system failed to detect a truck turning ahead.
Richard Wallace, of the US Center for Automotive Research, said that, while the collision will not affect the development of the technology, 'it will affect the perception of it'.
Maurice Cousins, from London PR consultancy Westbourne Communications, which will carry out the study, told Transport Network: 'It's our job to find out what people think about issues such as safety. If they say they're worried about Tesla, we'll report their views'.