From the Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS) newsletter.
New research has found one third of Australians would drink more alcohol if they had access to an autonomous (self-driving) car. In a study published on March 2020, researchers from Perth’s Curtin University surveyed 1334 Australian adults of legal driving age to ascertain how their access to autonomous vehicles (AVs) could impact their alcohol consumption habits. The results suggested that while driverless cars are likely to reduce drink-driving rates, they could also lead to greater levels of binge drinking.
Study co-author Professor Simone Pettigrew said once autonomous vehicles become readily available, “they could be used as a means of facilitating out-of-home alcohol consumption and more frequent bouts of heavy drinking. 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,” Professor Pettigrew said.
“A particular challenge will be the need to encourage the use of autonomous vehicles after drinking without encouraging drinking per see. Given that people’s exposure to AVs has been very limited to date, more research will be needed as these vehicles become available on Australian roads, to assess whether people’s drinking behaviours actually change in the manner they expect.”
Fortunately, policymakers have a while to get out ahead of the societal repercussions, given those in the automotive industry predict mass-produced, readily available driverless cars remain a way off.
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