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New research has found the introduction of driverless vehicles is likely to reduce drink-driving rates but could lead to greater levels of binge drinking.

The report from Curtin University in Perth, Australia, found the increasing use of autonomous vehicles (AVs) was likely to bring with it mixed health outcomes and therefore posed a challenge to policymakers in their efforts to minimise alcohol-related harms.

Lead author Research Associate Mr Leon Booth, from the School of Psychology at Curtin University, said by removing the need for a driver, autonomous vehicles were expected to substantially reduce rates of drink-driving.

“However, this benefit may be accompanied by an unintended negative consequence in the form of greater overall alcohol consumption due to increased availability of affordable and convenient transport.” 

Booth adds: “We surveyed 1334 adult Australians, about half of whom reported being likely to use an autonomous vehicle after consuming alcohol, while more than one-third were likely to consume more alcohol if they planned to use an autonomous vehicle (AV).

“Lower age, more frequent alcohol consumption, a positive attitude to autonomous vehicles and a preference for using ’ride-share’ AVs were associated with a greater likelihood of engaging in these behaviours.”

Study co-author John Curtin Distinguished Professor Simone Pettigrew, from the School of Psychology at Curtin University and The George Institute for Global Health, said with autonomous vehicles expected to become available to the mass market around the world by mid-2020, the research highlighted an emerging issue.

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