Are Women Better at Controlling Driverless Cars?


Research study shows that women are better at controlling autonomous cars

The age-old heated topic – who are better drivers? Women or Men?

According to some new and interesting research published by Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, when it comes to driverless cars,  W O M E N are better drivers!

How the study worked

The study of 33 female and 43 male drivers was conducted by Dr Li in a DriveLAB simulator, which recreates the controls of a Level 3 driverless vehicle.

Level 3 autonomy as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Level 3 autonomy means that within known, limited environments the driver can safely turn their attention away from driving tasks – so they can watch youtube on their dashboard! But it does mean that human drivers must be ready to respond when needed. And Level 3 autonomy just got approved for Mercedes Benz Drive Pilot both Germany and now in the US. So it’s not far away!

Woman reading a book while sitting in a driverless car

In the simulation, the drivers were asked to respond to hazards and take over control of the autonomous car. The female drivers demonstrated quicker reaction times and more stable wheel control when responding to the danger.  Go girls!  A little more risk averse!

So the study worked like this.

Both male and female “drivers” had to read aloud from an iPad while in the driver’s seat of the simulator. A minute later, the car’s autonomous driving computer notifies them of a parked car blocking their route. It asks them to take over driving, but the autonomous vehicle continues at the same speed without slowing down!

It gave the “drivers” 20 seconds to spot the parked car, change the car’s course and avoid a collision.

Results of the study

Some of the interesting results the study showed were that:

  • Men took a mean of 2.63 seconds to take back control, while women took only 2.45 seconds (so women reacted faster than the men by 10%).
  • Women turned the steering wheel less sharply with an average of 8.13 degrees from centre, compared to 8.93 degrees by the men – again 10% better by women. And this translates to fewer reckless maneuvers by the female cohort.
  • Women accelerated more quickly, were more deliberate and had better steering wheel control than their male counterparts.

So should driverless cars then have inbuilt gender or other settings?

Which sex is the better driver has been hotly contested forever, and women have generally come off as second best. But now, with driverless cars, engineers should be looking at all factors that need to be taken into account as inputs. Because ultimately, they impact on the overall safety of autonomous vehicles.

And if female drivers respond better to danger and have faster reaction times, then that’s definitely something that should be factored into the algorithms.

But it’s not only gender that should be taken into consideration.

Happy days as a female safely takes back control of a driverless vehicle

Insurance companies have long known that the AGE of the driver is a significant factor as well. That’s why it’s so much more expensive to insure any vehicle for a driver under 25, and then when you’re over 55, the insurance premiums drop.

But these gender differences are also very significant for automated car manufacturers and software developers. The study shows how important it is to incorporate inclusive design approaches. So that they consider preferences, needs, requirements and performance of drivers from all different demographic groups. So that the algorithms around the data they collect are not skewed.

Then why are women are more hesitant than men about adopting driverless cars?

It’s really fascinating then that women are more reluctant than men about driverless cars – something that has shown up in multiple studies initially found that women are more hesitant about autonomous cars than men. It comes down to whether women TRUST an autonomous vehicle – which is really an emotion. 

But the research tells us despite their reluctance, women are actually better at using autonomous vehicles. Female drivers are shown to be able to use and interact with driverless vehicles better than men.

There are also more general intuitive characteristics of females that translate into their ability to better control driverless cars than men. These include that women generally have a better sense than men:

  • Of their surroundings and are better at situational awareness
  • Of how other drivers will act
  • at communicating with other drivers
  • at anticipating other drivers’ actions.

All of these factors allow women to more effectively control driverless cars.

Women are more skeptical than men about some uses of artificial intelligence, particularly the possible widespread use of driverless passenger vehicles. They want to look at how often female and male drivers are distracted while taking over driving. explains that the study revealed female drivers are far less likely to commit driving offenses than male drivers, despite the fact that they historically receive more jibes about their skills behind the wheel. Women required an average of 13.52 seconds to perceive and change lanes when they were moving out of the way of a stopped vehicle, whereas males required 13.76 seconds.

What are some of the challenges that still need to be addressed when it comes to driverless cars?

There are several challenges that still need to be addressed when it comes to driverless vehicles. Social and political conflicts may arise due to strong opinions on the matter. Low tolerance for accidents caused by driverless vehicles may delay the introduction of driverless systems. Focusing solely on safety and security may neglect potential benefits of driverless technology. Publishers need to be open minded and address everything from financials to lifestyle when discussing driverless technology.

Petty arguments about whether men or women are better drivers were supposed to be resolved by autonomous cars. Yet, it appears that women might just have the upper hand in controlling driverless vehicles in hazard situations in the next generation of cars.

I can only imagine the comments and jokes that are going to come out of this study and this post!

Well of course women are better at driving driverless cars ….

Because they don’t actually DRIVE them!!!

Boom boom!

Bah Humbug!

Six levels of driverless vehicle automation

At we’ve put together this cool infographic on the six levels of driverless vehicle automation.

Six levels of driverless vehicle automation