Thomas Anderson/Flickr

Wait a Sec… Do People Even Want Self-Driving Cars?

Survey says no.

PETER DOCKRILL
17 JUL 2015
 

There’s no shortage of research taking place in the self-driving car industry. Google is working on them, as are all sorts of luxury car manufacturers. The technology is so refined it’s thought to be safer than human drivers, and a new study indicates that driverless cars will be better for the environment too, cutting as much as 90 percent of greenhouse emissions when compared against the gas-guzzlers we drive today. You can even upgrade your car to make it self-driving, providing you own a compatible model.

But despite this massive level of investment by tech companies and the automotive industry at large, research measuring consumer sentiments about the imminent driverless car revolution isn’t quite so positive. A new survey of 505 drivers conducted by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute suggests that most drivers in the US aren’t particularly happy about the idea of automated vehicles, with the largest segment of respondents indicating they’d prefer to retain full control over their vehicles, thank you very much.

 

The researchers survey found that the most frequent preference for vehicle automation was for no self-driving capability at all (43.8 percent of those surveyed). Not too far behind were respondents indicating that they’d prefer partially self-driving vehicles (40.6 percent), but only a slim majority of 15.6 percent of people said they liked the idea of a self-driving car being fully in control.

This research follows other studies indicating that consumer demand for driverless technology is still lukewarm. A recent survey of UK drivers found less than a third would choose a driverless car and only a quarter were excited by the prospect, while another study this year found female drivers in particular were concerned about the safety of self-driving vehicles.

The results show that consumer attitudes still have a way to go before we welcome driverless cars with open arms (although it’s worth highlighting that this survey had a pretty small sample size). But in a slim sign of good news for the automobile industry, the University of Michigan’s new research suggests this transition in sentiment is occurring, albeit slowly. The study found that younger drivers generally welcome automated vehicles more than older drivers, and compared to the same survey last year, less respondents on the whole indicated they were “very concerned” about riding in self-driving vehicles, while more said they were “not at all concerned” (although the gains were negligibly slim).

For the most part however, the authors note attitudes to self-driving technology are very similar to what they were last year, and "concern about riding in completely self-driving vehicles remains high”.

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