U.S. Drivers Still Not Very Keen on Self-Driving Vehicles

Wed, 7/25/2018 - 7:27 pm by Kirsten Rincon

The world’s leading automakers and tech companies are adamant that driverless cars are poised to bring about a dramatic change to transport, make roads much safer and enhance the overall in-vehicle experience. However, despite the numerous benefits of autonomous driving technology, most drivers have yet to be convinced that self-driving vehicles are safer than conventional, human-operated cars.

A new survey shows that a large majority of U.S. drivers don’t want fully autonomous vehicles, and would like to retain a certain level of control over their vehicles in the future. The main reason behind the hesitation among drivers to embrace self-driving cars seems to be the fact that they are not yet sure about what riding in such a vehicle would look like, or how safe or convenient it would be.

Safety Concerns About Riding in a Driverless Vehicles

Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak, researchers with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, have conducted a survey to see how car owners feel about vehicle automation, and how willing they are to ride in a completely autonomous car. They surveyed a total of 618 licensed drivers in the United States, and published the results in a report titled “Motorists’ Preferences for Different Levels of Vehicle Automation“, as the latest in the series of reports focusing on public opinion of driverless vehicles.

The report states that the largest portion of those surveyed, or 46 percent of them, don’t want any level of automation in their vehicles in the future, followed by 39 percent of respondents saying that they would be willing to ride in vehicles with partial self-driving capabilities. Only 16 percent of the drivers polled answered that they want completely self-driving vehicles.

When compared to a similar survey that the same researchers conducted in 2015, the results of this year’s survey are virtually unchanged. The new survey indicates that drivers remain largely concerned and hesitant about riding in fully autonomous vehicles, which suggests that at the moment, a widespread consumer acceptance of self-driving technology is not on the horizon.

“Overall public opinion has been remarkably consistent over the two years that this survey has been conducted, despite the increased media coverage of self-driving vehicles,” Schoettle said. “Furthermore, questions such as preferred destination input method or diver intervention notification method showed the same patterns in both the order and magnitude of preferences as the previous survey.”

Must Be Able to Take Control

Another important finding from this survey is that practically all respondents, or exactly 95 percent of them, said that they would like to be able to take control of their vehicle at any given moment, which is why they prefer their future vehicles to be equipped with a steering wheel, along with a gas and a brake pedal. Touchscreens are the preferred method to do that for 38 percent of drivers, followed by voice commands.

This clearly suggests that drivers don’t believe autonomous driving technology is very reliable, and are convinced that they can control vehicles better than a self-driving system.

Automakers and other companies developing driverless vehicles should take note of the results of this survey and work on raising public trust in this novel technology, in order to ensure a smooth transition from conventional cars to computer-controlled ones.