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.
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.