Study finds that people are not really interested in self-driving cars

swanson
© Google/ Their oldest passenger, 94 year old Florence Swanson

Henry Ford is reputed to have said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” He didn’t, but that doesn’t change the truth of the aphorism: People don’t want something when they don’t know what it can do and how it will change their lives. It’s one reason that a lot of people are dubious about self-driving cars or autonomous vehicles (AVs), as noted in a J.D. Power study we covered recently, and now in a report from the The University of Michigan Sustainable Worldwide Transportation gang, Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak.

Their latest study, Motorists' Preferences for Different Levels of Vehicle Automation:2016 finds that people really don’t want completely self-driving cars. A whopping 95.2 percent of respondents wanted a self-driving car, even if it was totally capable, to still have have a steering wheel plus gas and brake pedals (or some other controls) to enable a driver to take control if desired, even though that is what some (like Google) have determined to be the worst of all possible worlds.

self-driving© Sustainable Worldwide Transportation

And the older they are, the less they want it; only 9.6 percent of respondents over 60 wanted a completely self-driving car, even though they are the demographic that will benefit from them the most.

Based on the survey, almost half or the respondents have no interest in a self-driving car, and only 15.5 percent want a completely self-driving car. In fact, they find the whole idea scary.

The respondents were more concerned about riding in a completely self-driving vehicle than in a partially self-driving vehicle. For example, 37.2% were very concerned about riding in a completely self-driving vehicle, as opposed to 17.0% for a partially self- driving vehicle. The level of concern for riding in completely self-driving vehicles is high, with two thirds of respondents feeling either very or moderately concerned.

I would point out that ten years ago, 95.2 percent of Blackberry users (including me) would probably have said that they absolutely had to have a real keypad and that the iPhone was the stupidest idea ever. But as my favourite talmudic rabbi noted, "My life has been blessed, because I never knew I needed anything until I had it." I suspect that there is a huge market for AVs and that they will be very popular. Whether or not that is a good thing is another post.

Tags: Self-driving car

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