Public Skeptical of Self-Driving Cars Despite Race to Perfect Technology

Despite accelerating hype surrounding the possibility of self-driving and fully autonomous vehicles in the near future, most Americans would rather drive themselves.

That's according to the results of a new study published today that aimed to assess public opinion on the subject. The survey commissioned by Kelley Blue Book showed that out of 2,264 U.S. residents polled, 64 percent said they need to be in control of their own vehicle and 62 percent said they enjoy driving.

Uber self driving
The results also revealed that 80 percent of participants believed people should always have the option to drive themselves, while a third of respondents said they would never buy a fully autonomous car.

When asked if they would live to see a world in which all vehicles are fully autonomous, 62 percent of respondents answered no. Baby boomers were the most resistant to the idea (72 percent), followed by Gen X (64 percent) and millennials (60 percent). Gen Z (ages 12-15) respondents were the most optimistic about a future of cars with no drivers, with only 33 percent believing such a scenario unlikely.

"This shows that while many of us have been reading a lot about progress being made on self-driving cars of late, to most people it's still like a flying car, something out of The Jetsons," said Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer. "But we also learned that while it's hard to get people on board, any level of exposure changes perceptions quickly."

The poll showed that most people aren't familiar with the term "autonomous vehicle" – one with no steering wheel or pedals, and no way for a human to intervene – and are wary of such technology. Meanwhile, just over half of respondents preferred to have full control of their vehicle, even if that made roads less safe overall, while 49 percent said they would be willing to cede some control to a computer if that meant having a safer roadway.

The poll results will be seen as a challenge for companies hedging their bets on an emerging market for self-driving vehicles. Ford, BMW, and Volvo aim to offer autonomous cars for sale within the next five years. Google and Uber are actively researching the area, while Lyft recently claimed that private vehicle ownership would be phased out in major cities by 2025, largely because of self-driving vehicles.

Although Apple's vehicle plans seem to be in flux, the company does have hundreds of employees working on a car project. Following Bob Mansfield's takeover of the car initiative earlier this year, Apple is said to have laid off dozens of employees as part of a "reboot" that will see focus shifting towards the development of an autonomous vehicle system.

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38 months ago
"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

- Henry Ford
Rating: 27 Votes
38 months ago
The public is stupid.

I don't think most people truly realize the dangers of having millions of slow-response-time, error-prone, likely distracted, potentially intoxicated, potentially angry or upset, potentially aroused, horrible at multitasking human creatures sticking their foot on a pedal to make a several ton weapon rocket forward at 60-70 miles per hour, all just feet or even inches away from a bunch of other idiots in weapons doing the same thing, with everybody HOPING that we all stay inside of the little white lines of paint that we call lanes.

Anybody even a little open-minded and even a little knowledgable about how dangerous automobiles are when humans are at the wheel should be able to put their fears of not being in total control behind them and should be very excited for a self-driving future.
Rating: 23 Votes
38 months ago
I am skeptical of the public's driving skills.

Half you lot never even indicate. Drive drunk. SnapChat at 60mph. Honk at girls. Park like morons. Fall asleep at the wheel.

Bring on the robots.
Rating: 10 Votes
38 months ago
I'm definitely in the majority group. I loooooooove cars and loooooooove driving. Autonomous cars probably appeal more to those who view cars as an appliance and driving as a chore.
Rating: 10 Votes
38 months ago
I have always been firmly in the full autonomy camp. That's all a good programmer does - take tedious, repetitive tasks that humans don't want to do anymore, and make a computer do it instead.

My friends were all firmly in the "I'll never have an autonomous car" camp.

Then one of them, generally regarded as the safest driver of all of us, was in a near fatal accident.

They're all now in the "autonomy can't come soon enough" camp. They now realize that not being in a fatal accident doesn't require you to be perfect 99.9 repeating % of the time. It requires you to always be perfect, always, and that no human is.

These "never autonomy" people will come around. As the technology becomes more common and they have their own manual crashes, they'll come to realize that rejecting autonomous cars is like rejecting life saving medicine.
Rating: 8 Votes
38 months ago
Two issues. Most people hate change. (Welcome to IT!). And people do want to be in control. Thus fear of flying vs. driving.

As for me, eliminate all the death, expense, traffic jams. Apple and Tesla, go go go!
Rating: 5 Votes
38 months ago
My mother-in-law: "I hate modern technology."

Except her smart TV, and Plex, and her iPhone camera, and email to share photos, and iMessage, and Facetime, and the air-conditioning in the car, and planes that take her on holiday, and her cataract operation that means she isn't blind and no longer needs glasses...
Rating: 5 Votes
38 months ago
There were a lot of people that said they didn't need an iPhone because "I just make phone calls". Now, those same people, don't even communicate via phone, but rather, text.

The public's perception of new technology is usually skewed and quickly changes once there is a tangible connection to the shift in technology. Once people realize the incredible advances to our society that self-driving vehicles will bring, those perceptions will change.
Rating: 5 Votes
38 months ago
People were skeptical of the first cars, and they loved riding their horses.
Rating: 4 Votes
38 months ago

Don't forget the "driver sacrifice problem". Human decision making, no matter how flawed, has a cachet that machine decisions do not.

I doubt an autonomous car would be doing that. But would have a trigger for different condition changes such as a proximity sensor trigger or light sensor. They would be more likely to keep over the recommended distance from the car in front. They might even predict a potential collision based on sound/vibrations from the ground in the event another vehicle is travelling very fast from a certain direction. If they become a public service, they might even access roadside cameras to know instantly of who's coming from where and how fast.

Public wary of airplanes being flown by pilots, demand that autopilots be returned to the sky.
The following generalizations may help those that are designing the autopilots for cars

People: Alert 80% of the time
Computers: Alert 100% of the time

People: Can predict what other people do, and when they're wrong, can adjust with varying degrees of skill
Computers: Can guess, and when they're wrong, and the programmer hasn't thought of a situation, the passengers are screwed

People: Care about tomorrow, and take steps to be sure they're there
Computers: Don't have the capacity to care, or know the implications of not being there

People: Get drunk, fall asleep, have fights with their spouse, kids, boss while driving
Computers: Well, we don't know what they do between clock cycles, now do we? But we assume that they just wait for the next instruction (I do have my doubts about the soberness of my work PC sometimes...)

Interesting posts.

I think overall autonomous, or self driving cars would be more safe than traditional driving. I find the tech really interesting and it is a kind of bittersweet thought of having autonomous vehicles. I love driving, but love the tech.

But, there is always the computers' logical way of processing information, that could be a problem. I like to think of the scene of iRobot, where the robot chooses to save the man instead of the little girl due to a higher probability of the man surviving.

Think of it this way: A vehicle driving down the road, with an on coming car in the other lane. A child runs across the street. The vehicle is incapable of stopping in time. The driver's choice is to hit the relatively still object in the road, or the high speed object coming towards the driver's vehicle.

Most humans would try to avoid the child, even if it meant they hit an on coming car. This is almost like a reflex, or instinctual, not really a pros and cons decision.

A computer might logically think that hitting a relatively still object (a child) is ideal vs hitting a on coming car.

This type of scenario could be redone in many different ways, but if a computer processes the data logically, the outcome would probably always be the same.
Rating: 3 Votes
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