News release

Date: 21st June 2016

Fewer road accidents seen as biggest benefit of driverless cars, new robotics survey finds

Public attitudes to robotic advances in medicine, transport and the home polled ahead of first ever UK Robotics Week (25th June – 1st July 2016)

London, United Kingdom, Tuesday 21st June 2016 – More than a quarter of UK adults polled in the UK Robotics Week survey believe that the biggest benefit of driverless cars will be fewer road accidents, a survey has found. The research, commissioned by the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, is being released ahead of the first ever UK Robotics Week (25 June – 1 July 2016).  

26.1 per cent of respondents representing a cross-section of UK adults think that the biggest benefit of the introduction of autonomous vehicles – such as the Google Self-Driving Car – will be a reduction in the number of road accidents1.  A fifth (20.7 per cent) believe that their road rage would decrease.  “While widespread advent of fully autonomous, “never-need-a-driving-wheel" self-driving cars is sometime away the possibilities for safety, economy and efficiency of these devices is breathtaking,” said Professor Paul Newman, who is leading Oxford University’s internationally acclaimed Mobile Robotics Group that develops self-driving cars and related technologies.   He added: “Early and thoughtful engagement with users - their fears, aspirations and expectations is all part of the development of the technology.”

Other key findings of the research into public attitudes to robotics advances include:

         71.8% feel that autonomous driving would have a positive impact on everyday commuting
         21.2% of respondents think that the automotive sector would deliver the greatest benefits from robotics in the next 10 years
         While men believe automotive will benefit most, women voted medicine the top sector to gain from robotics technology during the coming decade (20.3%).

Some more quirky findings include:

         Robots at Wimbledon? A quarter of people polled (24.30%) believe that ball-collecting robots at tennis games will exist within the next 10 years
         A fifth of Brits (20.3%) would like their vacuuming chores to be undertaken by a robot, while 1 in 6 (17%) would like their ironing done robotically

The survey numbers reveal some surprising and interesting perceptions around robotics technology as the UK prepares to shine a major spotlight on the nation’s innovation and leadership in robotics and autonomous systems.  Over half of Brits (56.4%) believe that robots will be driving cars in the next 25 years, while 54.3% believe they will be able to clean. 

Of those surveyed, 43.3% believe that robots will be able to perform surgical operations in the next 25 years, and over a third (35.5%) think that robots will be able to talk and have a conversation.

Commenting on the release of the survey results, Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, Chair of the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, said: “Advances in technology will inevitably change the nature of workforce, replacing certain types of jobs whilst creating new opportunities in the process. A national level engagement is essential to ensure the general public has a clear understanding of current and future development of robotics and artificial intelligence and its positive impact on UK jobs and economic growth.”  He added:  “At the same time, we need to be open and prepared for the changes in workforce structure and shift in the skills base by developing a national programme to address the digital skills gap.”

UK Robotics Week, to be held annually during the last week of June, is a unique opportunity to learn about the current state-of-the-art robotic technology, discuss the role of robots and artificial intelligence in our lives, and to inspire the next generation of designers and engineers. 

UK Robotics Week will culminate in the celebration International Showcase event in London on Friday 1st July.  This grand finale event will bring together the latest research from the UK and from around the world, offering talks and demonstrations from leading robotics nations including the UK, Japan, United States, South Korea, China, Italy, Switzerland and United Arab Emirates. The event will also include the Awards Ceremony for the four robotics Challenges – School Robot Challenge, Autonomous Driving Challenge, Surgical Robot Challenge and Field Robotics Challenge – plus the launch of two brand new Robotics and Autonomous Systems white papers.

For full information about all the activities planned for UK Robotics Week, please visit the website: and follow UK Robotics Week on Twitter (@ukroboticsweek, #ukroboticsweek #UKRW16).

Members of the media interested in attending, filming or photographing any of the activities being held, or in scheduling an interview with a UK Robotics Week spokesperson or robotics expert, should contact nicky[at]evokedset[dot]com


     Research carried out by Opinion Matters on behalf of EPSRC UK-RAS Network between 25/05/2016 and 26/05/2016.  Sample: 1282 UK adults

Ends –

Notes for media:

Timeline of some of the key UK Robotics Week events:

         June 25th – July 1st 2016: First ever UK Robotics Week – core week
         June 25th 2016: Surgical Robot Challenge, Imperial College London
         June 25th 2016:  Robotics Open Day, University of Leeds
         June 25th 2016: Open day: Robotics at University College London (UCL), London
         June 25th 2016: Open day: Robotics at King's College London
         June 25th – 26th 2016: London Tech Weekend, hands-on activity for children, London
         June 25th – 26th 2016: Social Robot Hackathon, Queen Mary University London
         June 25th – June 28th 2016:  Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics, Royal Geographic Society, London (surgical and medical robotics)
         June 27th 2016: The Ethical Roboticist public lecture, University of Liverpool
         June 28th 2016:  Field Robotics Challenge, Sheffield
         June 28th - 30th 2016: Living with Robots, hands-on workshop for students, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield
         June 28th – 30th 2016:  TAROS (Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems) Conference, University of Sheffield (robotics and autonomous systems technologies)
         June 29th 2016: Robots – Faithful servants or existential threat?, Panel discussion at Royal Academy of Engineering, London
         June 30th 2016: Meet the Tortoises, hands-on activity for children, Bristol Robotics Lab
         June 30th 2016: Space Robotics, public lecture and exhibition, Surrey Technology for Autonomous Systems and Robotics, Guilford
         June 30th 2016: Improving quality of life using assistive robotic devices, public lecture, University of Leeds
         July 1st 2016: Grand finale event and International Robotics Showcase; awards ceremony for Challenges; launch of two new whitepapers, IET Savoy Place, London
         July 1st 2016: Verification and Validation Workshop, University of Sheffield
         July 4th – 7th 2016: Eurohaptics, conference, Imperial College London (haptics and touch-enabled computer applications)

UK Robotics Week is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), The Royal Academy of Engineering, IET, and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

About the EPSRC UK-RAS Network ( 
The EPSRC UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems Network (UK-RAS Network) is dedicated to robotics innovation across the UK, with a mission to provide academic leadership in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS), expand collaboration with industry, and integrate and coordinate activities at eight Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded RAS capital facilities and Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) and partner universities across the country.

Nicky Denovan
Email: nicky[@]evokedset[dot]com


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