LONDON: Road death statistics are rising, so you could be forgiven for imagining that the approaching technology for driverless vehicles will be music to the ears of the emergency services.

But will our roads be safer? It's just one sad statistic so far, but the death of Tesla Model S driver Joshua Brown in Florida this May, reportedly while watching a movie as the car progressed on self-driving mode, has rocked the confidence of auto-drive pioneers and pushed a burning question to the head of the debate: will we really be safer on autopilot?

The issue's just been the focus for Driver Ahead, a London summit of experts in this technology jointly hosted by safety experts IAM Roadsmart, the RAC Foundation and Pirelli. Celebrity speaker Victoria Coren-Mitchell kicked off the event by voicing a fear many share: "What would I do in a driverless car? The answer is 'Scream!' What is driving this thing?"

Simon Thompson, Human Factors Specialist at Jaguar Land Rover, said that free from the job of actually driving, we naturally look for other things to do: "but how does the car engage with the driver when it needs him or her? There is a lot more to be done in designing cars so controls are easier to find when asking the driver to take over control again."

Professor Nick Reed, head of mobility research at Bosch, warned "any system needs to be aware of the effective use or misuse of it," while Sarah Sharples, professor of Human Factors at Nottingham University added: "People will break unbreakable technology if they find it inconvenient - and people pranking and having fun will cause security risks."

Heaven or hell, the robot car is heading our way... everyone happy with that?