Volvo Drive Me project

Amid the concerted push to develop and produce driverless cars, one hurdle – and it’s a big one – is garnering public support and acceptance for this fully autonomous technology. According to a new study, the public isn’t quite ready to hand over the keys just yet.

In fact, researchers Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak from the University of Michigan found that more than four out of five people said they’d rather not ride in driverless vehicles.

Study Findings

The preferences showed that 46 percent, nearly half of the 618 drivers surveyed, would rather drive in a vehicle without any self-driving features over one that had either partial or full self-driving technology.

About 39 percent indicated a preference for partially self-driving vehicles, while 16 percent were onboard with a fully autonomous vehicle.

By age group, the stated preferences show:

  • Younger drivers – about 19 percent of surveyed drivers aged 18-29 are more likely to be accepting of fully-autonomous vehicles.
  • Among older drivers – those aged 60 or older – just 9.6 percent said they’d be OK with driverless cars.
  • Drivers aged 30-44 were the most likely to prefer fully autonomous vehicles, with 22 percent indicating this preference.
  • Forty-three percent of drivers in the 30-44 age group indicated they’d prefer cars with partial self-driving capabilities, while 35 percent in this demographic said they preferred cars with no self-driving technology.

Ford Fusion prototype autonomous car

Public Concerns Consistent

Researchers wrote in their report that concerns remain higher for completely self-driving vehicles than for partially self-driving ones. “Respondents still overwhelmingly want to be able to manually control completely self-driving vehicles when desired.”

Most of the survey respondents said they also want to be notified when it’s necessary to take control of a self-driving car with a combination of warnings: sound, vibration and visual.

Specifics on concerns:

  • Regarding fully autonomous vehicles:
    • 7 percent said they had no concerns
    • 37 percent said they were “very concerned”
    • 29 percent indicated they were “moderately concerned”
    • 24 percent said they were “slightly concerned”
  • Regarding partially self-driving vehicles:
    • 17 percent said they had no concerns
    • 17 percent indicated they were “very concerned”
    • 34 percent were “moderately concerned”
    • 33 percent were “slightly concerned”

Another illuminating finding from the study is that about 95 percent of respondents said they wanted a self-driving car to have a steering wheel, gas pedal and brake pedal – so the driver could take over the vehicle.

Researchers said that “despite increased media coverage of self-driving vehicles,” overall public opinion on the matter has been “remarkably consistent over the two years that this survey has been conducted.”

v2v and v2i technology-General Motors

Our Take

Looking ahead, with legislation and insurance hurdles still to be overcome and rapidly accelerating technological development to make driverless cars a marketplace reality, consumer concern is likely to rise before it falls.

What used to be a now and then news story will become more and more common. Talk around the dinner table, at work, between friends and on blogs will focus more on how this isn’t if but when. Human nature will put off taking things too seriously until it’s necessary to deal with them.

At the point where driverless cars need to share the road with millions of American drivers who still pilot their own vehicles is where the issue will really be decided.

What’s your opinion on giving up control of the wheel? Are you ready for a fully autonomous car, a partially self-driving one, or are you going to hold out for as long as you can?


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